Photographer Giles Clement claimed Instagram fame with his distinctly beautiful tintype portraits taken of the likes of Courtney Barnett, Fiona Apple and Hoizer at SXSW and the Newport Folk Festival. The Nashville-based artist left his job as a news shooter in 2008, pursuing large format photography and selling gear before taking up tintypes full-time with his trusty Petzval lens and a mobile studio in 2012.
“[Shooting tintypes] is very involved and technically challenging, but it’s very rewarding,” he explains. “You prepare and shoot a plate in five minutes, and you get that reward of whether it worked or not. The process is very addictive.”
A tintype photo prints on a thin sheet of metal, impressing a one-of-a-kind positive that reads as glossy, heavily saturated and full of character. The process takes a few minutes (Clement says about five) and each tiny metal tintype is impossible to physically reproduce.
Clement decided to pursue tintypes full-time, and by chance found himself with a lease in Portland where he set up a temporary shop. While it was a bootstrapping learning experience, it wasn't totally a lucrative one. “It’s not in anyone’s vernacular anymore to go to a photo studio,” he says. But when an invite to shoot at Willie Nelson’s ranch during SXSW came his way, Clement packed up and hit the road.
“It wasn’t just that event but a chain of events that kept putting me in different parts of the country,” he explains. “I was living on the road, crashing at friend’s houses or sleeping in the van. I spent February 2014 to August 2015 on the road full-time, going gig to gig, and seeing where it would take me.”
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Clement’s tour led to a wide Instagram following, pick-ups from fashion, music and photography media alike, and bigger gigs, including theNewport Folk Festival’s inviteto shoot the performing bands. Currently Clement keeps a studio in Nashville, where he hopes to develop a more prominent home base, but he’ll be on a brief East Coast tour — with media assignments along the way — through the end of the month.
Local shops and vendors partner with Clement to host tintype pop-ups, where customers can book 20-minute sessions with the photographer and leave with a tintype of their very own. While the photo production naturally skewers antique, Clement says encourages attendees to come as they are: “I don’t do the whole Civil War reenactment thing,” he laughs. “That’s not my jam.”
A tintype session with Clement includes the staging, processing and a single 4x5” photograph and the photographer assures us it’s worth your time.
“A tintype can capture someone’s personality, the pluses and the flaws,” he says. “I haven’t found another medium that captures as efficiently and honestly as a tintype.”
If you go:
Aeronaut Brewing 5:20-8 p.m.; walk-ins after 8 p.m.
14 Tyler St, Somerville
Boston General Store
305 Harvard St., Brookline
Our Wicked Lady
153 Mogan Ave, Brooklyn
Love Me Do
2220 E Susquehanna Ave., Fishtown
$80 per session; required RSVP at GilesClement.com.