Victorian Britain

and the Tintype Photograph


An exhibition of Victorian tintypes curated by Sheila Masson


Despite huge popularity across the social strata in the United States of America, Victorian tintype photography never attained the same level of acceptance in Great Britain and as a result it has been annexed to the periphery of photographic history. The photographic establishment's adherence to the inflexible structure of the British class system created a hierarchy of respectability within photography and the tintype's negative reputation was

nurtured in contemporary journals and publications, including the British Journal of Photography. This stigma continued into the 20th Century as Helmut Gernsheim and Alison Gernsheim's 1955 tome The History of Photography still derided tintypes as “these hideous, cheap-looking pictures”, decades after they had become synonymous with lower class itinerant or seasonal portrait photographers or as spur-of-the-moment seaside novelties. Fast forward to the 21st Century and tintype photography is now enjoying a renaissance amongst the alternative photographic process community and contemporary tintypes are again being created across the globe. This exhibition of original 19th Century photographs will reveal the tintype as an invaluable document of working class people and their photographers, and help to reposition tintypes as a significant and worthy subject within photographic history.