Today we’d like to introduce you to Paul Lender.
Paul, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Some 37 years ago, my interest in photography started in an after-school club. There I learned to develop black and white 35mm film. From that time on, photography was always a hobby but it took another 17 years before photography really became a way of life and small business. In 2010, I started a wedding and portrait photography business that is still in place – Left of Center Photography – but also started exploring photography beyond digital.
That leads me back to film. At the same time, wet plate collodion, a process from 1851, was picking up a bit of niche popularity, and while I was interested, I had no idea where to begin. I read a lot, acquired some of the equipment I would need but didn’t act until March of 2020 when the CoVID pandemic put a pause in my digital photography business and gave me some time to get after some personal projects. A few months later Cleveland Tintype was created.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
There is nothing smooth about learning a process that is 170+ years old. The sensitivity of the chemistry changes by recipe and with time. Small missteps in the process, waiting a second too long, getting dust in plate holders, the temperature can all affect how a plate turns out. This process requires the photosensitive plate to be created, exposed and developed within 15-20 minutes or else the plate dries and the process is over. With so few wet plate collodion photographers around (less than a handful in Ohio), you can find yourself on an island when it comes to trying to identify what went wrong without somebody actually there to watch what you’re doing. That means spending lots of time on Youtube, Facebook groups and messaging with peers to gather info and figure out how to apply it to your own situation.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Cleveland Tintype creates a tangible product that is rare to find in photography these days. Today, a digital photograph goes from the camera to an online gallery to social media. In most cases, it never physically exists as a print. A tintype begins as a tangible product. A plate is poured, exposed and developed in 15 minutes and the first form it exists in is as a physical image on aluminum or glass. That’s it. That can be the end. To exist digitally it has to be scanned or photographed. It exists digitally last, not first, like so much photography these days.
What were you like growing up?
Looking back at growing up, I’d say I always was a creative. I drew comics, played the organ and painted ceramics. I was also a bit of a gamer – role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragon – and my fair share of video games – Atari, Intellivision, Colecovision.
I was also a quiet kid that didn’t like to draw attention to myself and I think that carries over into my photography today. A large format camera is a big piece of equipment to hide behind and let the finished photos grab the attention.
- Cleveland Tintype Private Sessions – $190
- Cleveland Tintype Pop-ups – $65-$85
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: clevelandtintype.com
- Instagram: instagram.com/clevelandtintype
- Facebook: facebook.com/clevelandtintype
- Youtube: www.youtube.com/user/paullender
Joseph Wyman Brown