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Ed Drew brings tintype photography back into the battlefield


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Ed Drew is the first photographer to use tintype photography techniques on the battlefield since the American Civil War.

Tintype photography is an old photographing technique very similar to the more popular wet plate photography. Nowadays, it is no longer used due to the world’s decision to move on to the digital era, which produces effortless higher-quality results.

Tintype consists of obtaining a positive exposure on metal sheets. Usually, it takes about five minutes to get a result, but better outcomes will take an hour or so and a lot of work from the creator. However, the process takes even longer when you find yourself on the battlefield.

Digital is too easy, Ed Drew says, while showing his tintype photography skills

The last time anyone has applied this method in a warfare zone was in the 19th century during the US Civil War by most photographers of that time.

A common misconception is that legendary photographer Mathew Brady has also used this photography type, but the so-called “father of photojournalism” has actually documented the warfare using ambrotype, which is the forerunner of tintype.

Since both soldiers and lensmen like it when things get a little rough, Staff Sergeant Ed Drew has decided to look into tintype photography. Even if it is an “ancient” process, he claims that digital makes it too easy for the photographer.

About ten years after hearing about this technique, Ed has decided to use it while being deployed in Afghanistan as an aerial gunner between April and June. He is an elite member of the California Air National Guard, but his true love and passion consists of taking photos.

Ed Drew proves that tintype photography on the battlefield should be revived

Drew said that he aimed at using a “historical” photography technique, so tintype was the best choice at the time. Furthermore, he did not hear about anyone doing it on the battlefield and when Afghanistan came calling, he saw it as the perfect opportunity to test his abilities.

Well, his proficiency in tintype photography will be well-known in the future, as his images are just great. Although they look like they have been captured decades ago, some elements in the background, such as a helicopter, will give it away.

All Afghanistan combat zone tintype images are worth taking a closer look and more of them can be found at Ed Drew’s personal website.

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