Genesee Libby Studio has Moved!

df95e8ff202492ed4b8fcdeeae752cf4 After two and a half years in our beautiful Hungerford studio, we decided it was time for a change. Genesee Libby Studio is currently operating out of my home. One of the things I missed most about working from home was that I couldn't (easily) shoot outdoors at the Hungerford. I missed working with plentiful natural light.

Big things are in the works. I will keep you posted!

Intro to Wet-Plate Collodion Photography

I'll be doing a lecture and demonstration on the wet plate collodion process on Tuesday, October 27 from 7p - 9p. Invented in 1851 by Frederick Scott Archer, it is one of the oldest photographic processes, and it is experiencing a revival in the 21st century. In this class you will learn how a wet-plate image is made, why it became the dominant form of photography during much of the Victorian Era, and why it is gaining in popularity today. You will be able to examine samples of modern and antique plates on metal and glass and learn the difference between tintypes, ambrotypes, and daguerreotypes.

I will also demonstrate the process using a vintage 8x10 camera to create a ruby ambrotype portrait. Participants will be able to see (and smell!) this fascinating photographic method.

This is a great introduction to a key process in the development of photography. It is the process that George Eastman learned before he went on to revolutionize photography. Perhaps it will entice you to take an upcoming tintype or ambrotype workshop at Genesee Libby. Or to have your own modern antique portrait made with us.

The class, offered through Rochester Brainery, will be held at Genesee Libby Studio. Cost to attend is $30 and pre-registration through Rochester Brainery is required.

Frederick Scott Archer

I Love Lucy

Billy the Kid and the Regulators

Randy Guijarro bought this 4"x5" tintype for $2 at an antique shop in Fresno, California. It has been authenticated and identified as outlaw Billy the Kid and his gang the Regulators. They are playing croquet at a wedding in Chavez County, New Mexico in 1878. It has been insured for 5 million dollars! Had I found it, I would have bought it and added it to my collection without ever realizing it depicted someone infamous. I would have just been delighted to find such an unusual tintype and one depicting people playing croquet! I'm glad the Guijarros' knew what they had. Makes me want to go treasure hunting!

Also, I'm going to start planning a tintypes and croquet party for next spring.

The Guardian has the story and large images for closer inspection.

Billy the Kid and his gang, the Regulators

Billy the Kid is on the left


Jen with her Bouquet of Garlic Scapes and Asparagus, 2013 Three on location tintype photobooths are coming up in September! We'll have our portable darkroom set up at various Rochester locations (weather permitting) and be offering tintypes for $40.

The 19th century wet-plate process is sensitive to the blue end of the spectrum, so most blues appear light in collodion. Jen's shorts or shirt in the above image could have been blue. As collodion is less sensitive to reds and oranges, these colors usually appear dark in a tintype.

Because this color sensitivity is different from modern panchromatic films, this process lets us see ourselves in a different way. It's how we might have looked if photographed 150 years ago at the dawn of photography.

Each image is an archival, unique object that will last for generations. The tintype photobooths are a lot of fun! We also offer private studio sessions offering more sizes and either ambrotypes or tintypes.

Now for the when and where . . .

SAT 9/19  Abundance Pop Up Market, 571 South Ave. (at the corner of Averill), 11a-3p

THU 9/24  South Wedge Farmers Market, 151 Mt. Hope Ave. (near the river), 4p-7p

SAT 9/26  The Secret Lab, 114 Hayward Ave., (next to the Rochester Public Market), 10a-4p

Let's Have Tea: 19th Amendment Celebration

I'll be setting up my mobile darkroom at the Susan B. Anthony Park on Madison St. on Sunday, August 16 and offering tintype portraits for sale. Let's Have Tea: 19th Amendment Celebration celebrates the life of famous Rochester suffragist, Susan B. Anthony, who voted in 1872 and was subsequently arrested for it. Please join us in honoring this amazing person who worked diligently to promote this cause throughout her lifetime. If you dress up in 19th century costume Alex White will give you tea and cookies! And if you opt for a tintype you'll look like your great great great grandparent!

This is what getting your tintype portrait made looks like. On Sunday I won't be needing artificial lights but I will need to bring my portable darkroom with me (this is where the "wet-plate" comes into play since the photographic plate has to stay wet during the exposure and development).

Jenn Libby making a tintype portrait in her studio, Genesee Libby Photography.

Memento Mori

Memento Mori, 2015
Memento Mori, 2015

I was invited to participate in a Pop-Up Roc exhibit at Cat Clay Studio right down the hall from me in the Hungerford building. It's called Live Now and Prosper and celebrates the unknown. It took me two months to finally land on the spirit photograph idea for this show. It seems so obvious in retrospect. Stop by the Hungerford this Friday, August 7 from 5p to 9p to see this great show. One night only!

Portraits Exhibit Up for One More Week

Cowboy My Portraits exhibit is up for one more week at the Little Theatre Café in Rochester, NY. There are 25 ambrotype and tintype portraits on display.

Cowboy is image #4 of 5 in the Ancestor Series that Jason and I made in 2014 after we moved into the Hungerford and got the darkroom up and running. We used the backdrop of the Genesee River that my friend Antoni painted for the studio. I love this series. Jason is really great to photograph in collodion. His new nickname is the Man of a Thousand Faces—he's the Lon Chaney (one of my favorites!) of collodion.

The show is up through Friday June 19th. The café is open every evening and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Catch a movie while you're there! They have yummy popcorn and good films.

Wet-Plate Lecture and Demonstration at Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village

from the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village archive
from the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village archive

I will be conducting a lecture and demonstration on the wet-plate collodion photographic process at the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village in Amherst, NY on June 13, 2015 from 1p-4p. Cost for Behind the Scenes Tour: 19th Century Photography is $40 and advance registration is required. Tickets can be purchased online through the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village website.

Portraits Exhibit at Little Theatre Café


I have a show coming up at the Little Theatre on East Avenue in Rochester. The exhibit is in the cafe and runs from May 23 through June 19. Opening reception is on Tuesday, May 26 from 5p-7p.

Portraits is an exhibition of tintypes and ambrotypes made using the wet-plate collodion process. Invented in 1851, this versatile process dominated the photographic field for several decades and was used to document people and places worldwide. Ambrotypes and tintypes were a popular format for portraiture even though they were not reproducible. Like a photobooth picture or a Polaroid, there was only one and a choice had to be made as to who got to keep it.

This is one of several aspects that Libby finds appealing in this archaic and difficult process. Today these unique images can easily be scanned and reproduced but the result is not the same as the original object. There is physicality and a weight to the originals. Each one is made by hand, touched by the photographer, and was in the same room as the subject. It’s a relic.

These portraits on glass and metal embody and belie their Victorian origins. The characteristics of the process—sensitivity to blue light, very fine grain, slow film speed necessitating long exposure times, and the creamy tones—delineate it from modern day films and digital photography. It allows us to see ourselves through a 19th century mirror.

Jenn Libby has been using wet-plate photography to make art for the past decade. This is the first time she is exhibiting her portrait work. In 2014 she founded Genesee Libby Studio in the Hungerford Building in order to begin offering wet-plate collodion portrait sessions and workshops to the public.

Tintypes Make Great Gifts!

Evelyn Genesee Libby is now offering tintype photobooth sessions at the studio and on location around Rochester. For $40 you can  have your very own 3”x4” tintype made.

Tintypes make great, unique and personal gifts! Mother's Day is coming up and photos of children in collodion are something special.

UPCOMING PHOTOBOOTH DATES Friday May 1, 5p-9p Saturday May 2, 10a-4p Sunday May 3, 12p-4p Saturday May 9, 10a-4p

If you cannot attend any of these dates please contact the studio to see if we can make other arrangements.

What to wear for your tintype. Blues, pinks, and light yellows appear white in collodion. It is generally preferable to wear colors that appear dark or grey in collodion. If you do wear something light it's good to wear something darker with it for contrast, such as a scarf, jacket, or vest. Stripes and other patterns can be a good choice. A tintype is a reversed image so if you have text on your clothing it will read backwards.

How long are the exposures. Anywhere from 2-10 seconds. We have a head brace to help stabilize movement. It works for many but it doesn't work on everyone.

Drop-ins are welcome, but we recommend you sign up for a slot in advance. To do so please call or email Genesee Libby Studio.

See the Facebook event page here.

Tintype Photobooth

Warmer weather and sunshine are coming and Genesee Libby will be offering tintype photobooth sessions on location around Rochester. For just $40 you can  have your very own 3”x4” tintype made. We will start by offering sessions here in the studio on April 11 and May 9 from 10a-4p during the Second Saturday open studios. Drop-ins are welcome, but we recommend you sign up for a slot in advance. To do so please call or email Genesee Libby Studio. Emily

Jason + Jenn

Tammie Masked

The Lost Boys

Cabinet Card from Montgomery Studio, Williamstown, PA I love this cabinet card. It is unlike any I've seen before. It's a candid studio portrait of seven costumed young boys having a good time. I imagine there was some directive from the photographer involving pointing, but overall they just look like kids enjoying being kids.

In most Victorian studio portraits (even the more playful and casual tintypes) people don't smile very often. And if they are smiling, it is usually a demure one, and not a "show your pearly whites" toothy grin that people are accustomed to now. One reason for this is that dental care was not so great in the 19th century so people might have preferred to hide their teeth.

Another reason is that exposure times were longer during the first few decades of photography, therefore people had to strike a pose and freeze it for a spell. This necessitated a head brace to keep the sitter's head still, and the base of these stands is often visible behind the sitter's feet. A big grin is hard to hold for longer than a few seconds without starting to look like a grimace.

Also, photography came on the heels of a long tradition of painted portraiture, and was most certainly influenced by the popular aesthetics that preceded it. You do not see large smiles in the painted portraits either.

At the time of this posting, this unusual find is for sale at Dennis A. Waters Fine Daguerreotypes. The tintype below can also be found there, but it has already been sold. Note the stand behind the boy's feet and the faint oval marking indicating the presence of a mat at some point.

Unidentified Tintype

Bugzilla Returns!

March 6th sees the return of Bugzilla to Cat Clay, her annual group show celebrating the art of the bug. I have a fondness for the maligned creatures of this planet (in addition to the more popular cute and fluffy ones), so I was delighted to be invited to participate this year.

I've had my studio in the Hungerford for one year and I have met a wonderful group of artists sharing this beautiful old factory. The amazing Sabra Wood of Cat Clay works just down the hall from me making some very groovy ceramics, running the non-profit Sample Soap, and hosting guest artists every month at her studio on First Fridays.

Stop by Cat Clay (#242) on March 6, 2015 from 5p-9p for Bugzilla! And then head down the hall to visit me at Genesee Libby (#225).

Participating artists include: Beth Bloom, Chris Charles, Karin Marlett Choi, Littlewing Clay, Amber Dutcher, Carolyn R. Ellinger, Shawnee R M Hill, The Knotty Owl, Jenn Libby Studio, Susan Mandl, Bev Rafferty, Sophie Signorini, Paul Taylor Glass, April Younglove and of course, her bugginess, Clifton Wood!

Ant,  Tintype, Jenn Libby, 2015

Scorpion,  Tintype, Jenn Libby, 2015

Tintypes—They're Not Just for Celebrities

For the second year in a row, Victoria Will has used the wet-plate collodion process to make tintype portraits of celebrities at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. I saw a brief video clip of her in action and she appeared to be making these without a tripod, using a high-powered strobe. These plates are a lot cleaner than the ones she made last year. You too can be photographed with this amazing 19th century process. Contact Genesee Libby to make an appointment today! Tintype of Spike Lee taken by Victoria Will at Sundance, 2015

Tintype of James Franco taken by Victoria Will at Sundance, 2015

Tintype of Jason Schwartzman taken by Victoria Will at Sundance, 2015

Tintype of Ewan McGregor taken by Victoria Will at Sundance, 2015

Tumbling Tumblrs

My first social media addiction was with the visual blogging platform known as Tumblr. It's focus on images drew me in. I found myself spending far too much time looking at images and looking for images to post (mostly of the vintage variety). I started the Genesee Libby Tumblr as a place to post historic images of people, places, and events that I found interesting, beautiful, and inspiring. It is the first place that I starting using the name Genesee Libby [Jenn C. Libby]. I've long been interested in pseudonyms, alter egos, and word play. This moniker was inspired by Rochester legend Pete Gruber, a saloon owner who went by the name Rattlesnake Pete because of his snake handling expertise.

Genesee Libby As A Child (my first Tumblr post)
Genesee Libby As A Child (my first Tumblr post)
Rattlesnake Pete
Rattlesnake Pete

Another personal Tumblr that I started around the same time is Compendium of Beasts. My friend and I were going to collaborate on a bestiary featuring his drawings and my photograms, so I started collecting images of animals to inspire us. We never finished the project but we enjoyed working on our list of animals to include. This friend recently died and I find myself drawn back to Tumblr thinking about him and his unique and wonderful perspective and sense of humor. The Felix image was his first Tumblr post and his avatar. I am sad that he's gone, but I'm grateful that he was my friend.

Phantom Limb Tumblr
Phantom Limb Tumblr
Compendium of Beasts Tumblr
Compendium of Beasts Tumblr
Compendium of Beasts Tumblr
Compendium of Beasts Tumblr

I ran the Visual Studies Workshop Tumblr when I worked in the Research Center from  June 2012 through August 2014. I adored this eclectic collection. I attended grad school at VSW because the program focused on my three favorite mediums—photography, film, and artists' books. The Research Center archive includes all three of these, with a sizable collection of vernacular photography and rare books. One of my favorite collections housed there is the Soibelman Syndicate News Agency Collection—a diverse collection of news agency photos from the teens through the 1940s.

VSW Tumblr
VSW Tumblr

One of my favorite Tumblrs, which is almost exclusively 19th century photography, is Tuesday Johnson's Historical Indulgences. She posts excellent historic photographic images, and is diligent about including relevant  information and provenance, including links to her sources.

from Historical Indulgences Tumblr
from Historical Indulgences Tumblr
from Historical Indulgences Tumblr
from Historical Indulgences Tumblr