Immortalis Photography is a brother/sister owned photography studio. We specialize in hand made photographs taken on vintage large-format cameras. Currently we use a 4×5 camera from the early 1900s with a lens from the 1920s. We are also using a larger 5×7 and 8×10 Century camera from the early 1900s with a Dallmeyer portrait lens from the 1800’s.
We both had learned about the historical photographic processes in school, but the first time we ever saw someone doing modern wet-plate collodion photography was when my brother scheduled a session for our mother with another tintypist who was traveling cross-country making portraits. We styled our mom in her traditional Southwest Native-American regalia, and I did her hair and makeup. I walked in to the make-shift studio, saw the process, and like riding a bicycle, my portraiture instincts kicked in. It had been a long day, and this particular photographer was doing “one size fits all” portraits. They were beautiful, but I longed for something more. I wanted art. I wanted something I could pass on to my grand-children one day. As a woman, I wanted better and more flattering lighting. I wanted my mom’s personality to shine through. I wanted to know everything there was to know about this process and all of the amazing antique equipment involved. My brother and I looked at each other and something just clicked.
We came home and began to research. We took an introductory class and it wet our appetite for more. We were not put off by the time consuming, frustrating and difficult process, rather it was a challenge and we both knew we were meant for it. We scoured the internet and horse-traded for vintage equipment, and we began to photograph friends and family. My brother began building an old model T Ford roadster pick-up truck that was going to serve as our travelling darkroom so that we could shoot portraits at special events. Soon after starting the build, we found another 1919 Model TT Delivery truck for sale. This is the larger commercial version of the Model T Truck. The best part was that it was owned by another tintypist out of Kansas who had already started to convert it into a traveling darkroom! What were the odds? We soon found ourselves on a train bound for Kansas! It was destined to be. Soon after, we had our business cards made. Our logo was designed by fellow artist and hot-rodder, Chris Garcia. We were able to get in contact with Will Dunniway, a 25+ year veteran of the process, and the foremost expert on Civil War era photography, and we begged him out of retirement to teach us. Will took us under his wing, he pushed and challenged us, critiqued our work, and helped us hone and refine our skills. The art form came to life.
We’ve found that the best thing about doing this type of photography is all of the crazy and interesting characters we’ve met along the way. Mostly old-souls like ourselves, who recognize and appreciate the skill and craft that goes into each picture. It’s been an interesting journey watching this vintage process become popular again and watching the excitement in the people’s eyes as their pictures develop right before their eyes. I love the contrast of an old process in a modern world. I think it makes for interesting pictures.