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Photographer using vintage technique to be featured at hist…

Photographer using vintage technique to be featured at hist…

A few years ago, Aaron S. Hall decided to slow down with his photography to see what developed.

What he found is that in these days of selfies being shared in the flash of a thumb swipe, he’s become a curiosity as he puts his fingers on the pause button on part of our digital world.

To have your photo taken by Mr. Hall is to slow down. Also, don’t move and please, hold that smile. And while you’re at it, take a moment of reflection to enjoy that natural light shining on you.

Vintage photographer to be featured at history, genealogy fair Freeze frame

A tintype photograph of Watertown Daily Times photographer Sydney Schaefer, made by Aaron Hall. Aaron Hall/Provided Photo

Mr. Hall specializes handmade vintage photos — those tintypes and ambrotypes popular in the 19th century. It’s also called the wet collodion process.

It involves using a photographic plate coated with iodized collodion and dipped in a silver nitrate solution immediately before taking it to the camera, where an image in captured on the plate. The plate is then rushed to a portable darkroom for development.

Mr. Hall captures his subjects on glass (ambrotypes) and aluminum (“tintypes”) plates. Finished products have an eerie, retro, attractive look when compared to today’s high definition photos seen on our screens.

The results are also tangible; something solid that subjects can hold onto and display. That’s the part that especially attracts Mr. Hall to the “wet plate” technique.

“There’s not a million copies,” Mr. Hall said at his Dexter home as he demonstrated the wet plate steps. “It’s not something on a disc somewhere that’s going to get lost. It’s going to be around for hundreds of years. I take that photo of you — that same light that bounced off you — that’s what makes the photo. You are part of it. Old tin types from the 1850s look like the day they were made because they were kept indoors.”

Mr. Hall will be one of the exhibitors at the fifth annual History and Genealogy Fair Saturday at the Jefferson County Historical Society.

Vintage photographer to be featured at history, genealogy fair Freeze frame

Aaron Hall’s tintype portrait studio at his Dexter home. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

Mr. Hall has taken his portable wet plate photo studio and darkroom to other events, such as this year’s Jefferson County and St. Lawrence County fairs. Those visits often involved explanations to people about what he actually does with his equipment.

“I get a lot of misunderstandings,” Mr. Hall said. “A lot of people go, ‘What do I do? Send you a photo and you print it?’ Or they say, ‘Ya, I had old time photos done at Disney World.’ They are confusing it with where people are dressing up and taking a digital photo and adding some sort of filter to it. Almost to everybody, I’m trying to explain, ‘No. I’m actually doing this like they did in the 19th century.’”

Mr. Hall, who has previously worked in jobs ranging from construction to a heavy equipment operator at a rock quarry, was first attracted to photography about a decade ago. He got a camera and took some online photography classes. He was especially enamored by Photoshop techniques.

He then worked for Penny Heath of Heath Photography, Redwood, for about three years and where he lost his interest in Photoshop.

“I learned a lot from her,” Mr. Hall said, adding that he still occasionally works for Ms. Heath. He also does the occasional wedding and other event photography.

Vintage photographer to be featured at history, genealogy fair Freeze frame

Aaron Hall pours collodion on a wet plate on Aug. 26 at…

Jonathan Cartu

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