The Slow Portrait | UAE Tintype Photography by Antonie Robertson

Gulf Photo Plus (GPP) is pleased to present a unique series of tintype portraits created by locally based photographer Antonie Robertson, now onview in the GPP gallery space.


Special event: Nov 8 at 5pm visit the GPP Gallery space to watch a live demonstration of the tintype process by the artist.


The tintype process is the photographic creation of a positive image on a metal plate. Black anodized aluminum is coated with collodion; it is then sensitized in a bath of silver before being exposed in camera. The metal plate is then immediately hand processed to create the final image. A versatile, modified version of the ambrotype discovered by the Frenchman Adolphe-Alexandre Martin in 1853, tintypes rapidly became the most accessible form of photography. The tintype democratized the captured image, making portraiture widely accessible for the first time since the invention of photography.

Today, the digital photograph is ubiquitous and omnipresent; yet for the most part intangible. Photo albums have come to exist only in the virtual world, driving the printed image near extinction. In contrast, Robertson’s tintypes celebrate portraiture in a physical form. The entire process becomes slow, thoughtful and deliberate, as the sitter must be still for at least ten seconds in order to remain in focus.

The tintype is a camera-original positive, and therefore the resulting image appears reversed (left to right) from reality. This creates a visual experience in great contrast to modern photographic processes, and leaves the viewer at times with a surreal impression of the sitter. Due to the chemicals and the physical process involved, each tintype plate becomes a unique object of it’s own. No two could ever be identical, instead characterized by swirls, flows and marks that set each one apart from the other.

Each tintype photograph in Robertson’s collection is a portrait of someone who is, or was at one time, in the UAE. The vast majority of the UAE population is expatriate; the UAE plays host to a variety of visitors that come and go each year, pursuing careers, escaping conflict or simply exploring new territory. In a community characterized by perpetual flux, Robertson’s work compels the viewer to slow down, to pause and reflect upon the few things that remain constant and tangible. Robertson’s portraits speak of modern day nomads, a metallic memory of an ever-changing population.

Part of a continuing project, Robertson will be offering a glimpse into the tintype making process through a live demonstration in the GPP gallery space. Shooting tintype portraits with the use of a portable studio, visitors can observe the full process during the Quoz event in Alserkal Avenue on November 8 at 5pm.

The exhibition is free to attend and open to the public, running November 2 – 19, 2014.

About Antonie Robertson

Antonie Robertson is a commercial photographer and visual storyteller based in Dubai, UAE. Originally from Cape Town he has been living abroad covering a wide range of assignments and genres for the last ten years. From news, portrait, food and lifestyle, architecture to product and commercial photography. He currently splits most of his time between being a newspaper staff photographer at The National, traveling to as many countries as possible and being involved in a multitude of creative endeavors. Always finding time for new projects he dreams of one day returning to the Mother City and opening a bespoke portrait studio at the foothills of Table Mountain.

View more of his work here.