Photography as an art isn’t easy, but running a successful photography business is even more challenging. Despite this, Noyel Gallimore managed to build a business focused around the oft-forgotten art of large format and tintype photography.
Gallimore operates his business out of Portland, Oregon, and offers his large format film and tintype portrait photography, which is unique in a market saturated with modern digital photography, to a Pacific Northwest community that welcomed his work with open arms.
“Having a close community of photographers is such an invaluable resource today,” Gallimore tells PetaPixel. “I couldn’t be where I am now without the support and kindness of those who care about the artistry of photography.”
Gallimore’s photographic journey started much like any other.
“My journey as a photographer started fairly simply. I inherited my grandmother’s film SLR camera when I was in middle school, and my interest in photography grew with a very journalistic approach,” he says. “I always enjoyed the challenge of capturing a story within a photo. As I grew older I explored all perspectives and styles of photography, and eventually realized that I was very much drawn to taking portraits.”
He found himself drawn to portraiture because he believes it makes photography more engaging.
“So much emotion and intent can be added to a photograph when there is a visible human element. Before I started shooting with a large format camera, I would walk around town with my 35mm or 120 camera and ask strangers if I could take their portrait if I noticed something interesting about them or their environment.”
His transition into wet plate photography came about after he learned about the process and the methods required to make an image.
“Mixing chemicals and making images with pure silver in a very archival and tangible form was so fascinating to me. I spent two years reading every book, scrolling through forums, and watching every video I could find before I felt confident enough to invest in a first attempt at making a tintype. However, before I finally did, I decided I should familiarize myself with large format cameras first,” he explains.
“It was spring of 2020 when I bought my Wista 4×5 field camera. Eager to use it as much as I could, I went to parks and started asking people for portraits. I found great joy from the interactions I would have with people, and this quickly became a regular activity for me.”
Contrary to how the pandemic affected most photographers, Gallimore found that his type of photography actually was able to flourish in a time when many people were avoiding contact with others. His unique approach was enticing enough to still succeed.
“At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people were feeling frightened and isolated from self quarantining. Offering portraits on large format film added something different to many people’s days. While most people hadn’t ever seen such a camera and much less had their photo taken with one, almost every person I met was touched in some way just from our interaction.
“While I was practicing my trade, I felt like I was also contributing to the community by offering such a unique activity during such dire times.”
Gallimore eventually worked up the courage to move into the wet plate process.
“Several months and a few hundred portraits later, I felt like I was ready to try the wet plate process. It took me a while to feel confident enough to offer the process as a service,” he explains.
“There are many sensitive variables to the process and understanding every element took time. Although frustrating at times, this was something I really enjoyed. I loved that each step of the process required a great deal of precision and attention to detail. Every wet plate photo I made was more thrilling than the last, and I practiced every chance I could get. As I honed my abilities, I continued shooting film at the park as my main form of marketing and exposure.”
Gallimore’s investment in himself and his knowledge of the process has paid off. He now works out of both a studio and portable darkroom, the latter of which allows him to set up his tintype photo booth in a pop-up style. He can now take the process anywhere he wants and that flexibility has become an important part of the business.
“I even offer tintype workshops for aspiring artists and enthusiasts! Over time I got to meet and befriend the few other wet plate photographers in the Portland area,” he says.
Image credits: All photos by Noyel Gallimore.