The Tintype Photographer Who Works Out of a 1938 Harley-Davidson Sidecar

Rob Gibson is a tintype photographer who works in what he calls “the world’s fastest darkroom.” After photographing vintage motorcycle and car events, he develops his tintypes in a 1938 Harley-Davidson sidecar that he zooms around with.

“I do wet plate collodion photography, the same process that was done in the 1860s that requires coating a glass or tin photographic plate sensitizing it, rushing it to the camera, making the exposure, rushing it back to the darkroom and developing it before it dries out,” Gibson tells PetaPixel. “This process was done from the 1850s up into the 1880s when eventually dry plate and film took over.

“Some of my cameras are well over 150 years old and I use all the same chemicals that were used back then.”

Gibson’s custom sidecar allows him to be extremely mobile, taking both his camera and his darkroom off road at times.

 

On the road, the sidecar also acts as a traveling billboard for his vintage photography business.

 

“Whether it’s at a historic motorcycle meet, antique car show, or steampunk festival, it gets attention wherever it goes,” Gibson says.

At each event, Gibson shoots tintypes or glass plates and then develops them right in front of his customers’ eyes, introducing them to the magic of old-school photography. Afterward, he takes the photos to his studio in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where he can make enlargements and prints.

 

Here’s a selection of Gibson’s work:

 

Gibson’s photos have been featured in a number of TV series and movies (e.g. Gods and GeneralsCold MountainInto the WestAssassination of Jesse JamesNational Treasure), by a number of networks (e.g. History Channel, Discovery Channel, A&E, PBS), and he has even done demonstrations for the White House Press Corp and the Smithsonian.

You can find more of Gibson’s work on his website and Instagram.