They’re the first tintypes created in a combat zone since the Civil War.
Seeking to capture the humanity of his peers fighting in the Afghanistan war, California Air National Guard aerial gunner Ed Drew asked them to sit for photos on the battlefield.
While the process was painstaking and laborious – when duty called, the Brooklyn-based photographer dropped his camera and jumped into a helicopter – the images were gripping.
Drew was on active duty in the Helmand Province as a helicopter aerial gunner with a U.S. Air Force Combat Rescue Unit.
‘To do this process in a war, let alone a foreign war, is historically significant,’ Drew told the New Yorker.
‘The process of wet-plate tintypes is challenging enough with perfect conditions and the availability of chemicals. In a foreign war, with the stresses of combat, lack of basic materials, drying desert air, and the wind and dust of Afghanistan, it was quite a challenge.’
The spectacular images can be viewed at his website Ed Drew Photography.
Drew’s images are the first combat zone tintype photos created since the Civil War
Drew said it was tough convincing his peers to sit through the tedious photo shoot
Drew was staff sergeant in the California Air National Guard and deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, as a helicopter aerial gunner with a U.S. Air Force Combat Rescue Unit when he captured these images
Drew said taking tintype pictures in a war zone was ‘historically significant’According to fstoppers.com
, tintype ‘is a slow, laborious wet plate process that is difficult to master and work with in warm temperatures’.Introduced in the mid-nineteenth century, this artistic process was used to document the Civil War.It involves hand-pouring a collodion mixture onto a metal plate, which is then made light sensitive in a darkroom via a silver nitrate solution.
The plate, encased in a light-tight film holder, is exposed to light in camera and then must be processed within ten minutes of exposure.
For Drew, the unique artistic process helped him work through his own involvement in the war.
‘As a photographer and artist I wanted to achieve something that was physical, one of a kind and very unique,’ he told PetaPixel.
‘I believe in the Japanese aesthetic of ‘Wabi-Sabi’ so the idea that something is imperfect and impermanent interests me.
‘I wanted that to translate in my Afghan images as metaphors for what I experienced in the war, I thought tintypes to be the perfect photographic process to translate Wabi Sabi in my portraits.’
The stresses of combat, lack of basic materials, drying desert air, and the wind and dust of Afghanistan challenged Drew’s artistic ability
While Drew’s peers were initially reluctant to sit for him, they went back for more after seeing the incredible results
Drew photographed his fellow soldiers in the front of the Air Force rescue helicopters they flew
Drew chose tintype photography because he ‘wanted to do a process that was historical, but also made me take my time and work slowly to focus on my subject.’But convincing his peers to sit for a formal portrait was tough, with many frustrated with the painstaking process.’Initially, I really had to convince them to do it,’ Drew told fstoppers.com
.’I work with these guys, but they know me as a gunner.
‘After they started seeing how amazing the plates looked, they began booking appointments.
‘One of the guys I flew with is the great great grandson of Buffalo Bill so he asked for a photo just like his grandfather. It was one of my best plates.’
Drew’s photographic goal was to ‘show the humanity of war in the eyes of airmen I fly combat missions with.’
Not since Matthew Brady¿s work documenting the Civil War has the tintype photographic process been used on the battlefield
Drew gave everyone who sat for him a high resolution scan and a print to thank them for participating
Taking photos during an active mission meant Drew often had to ‘drop everything’ and jump in a helicopter
Drew’s Afghan images were ‘metaphors’ for what he experienced in the war
Drew said switching ‘thought process, from creative to tactical’ was difficult, as he had to make sure he maintained his ‘situational awareness’
For Drew, the photos helped him to document his ‘life in the aftermath of my deployment’
Attribution: Mail Online