Recent visitors to Blackpool Promenade, found themselves drawn to a strange and unfamiliar contraption that had appeared on the Comedy Carpet.

On closer inspection, people realised it was one of the ‘old style’ cameras, like they used in the ‘old days’.

But this was no money-making gimmick, devised to entice the visitors to part with their money.

Behind the lens was Rob Ball, a professional photographer from Kent. Rob, who is also a Senior Lecturer in Photography at Canterbury Christ Church University, specialises in seaside images. His visit to the town, in collaboration with Blackpool Museum, is part of long-term photographic project called The Itinerant, funded by the Arts Council, engaging with coastal resorts.

Rob and his assistant, Jason, were here to take tintype photos of a cross section of visitors to Blackpool promenade, as well as capturing the seaside architecture.

Tintype photographs are made by creating a direct ‘positive’ on a thin sheet of metal, coated with a dark lacquer or enamel, which is used as the support for the photographic emulsion. The image has to be developed straight away, so a temporary dark room, in a nearby van, was used for this purpose. Tintypes enjoyed their widest use during the 1860s and 1870s, but lesser use of the medium persisted into the early 20th century. There has been renewed interest in these traditional techniques in the 21st.

The images rely on ultra-violet light to capture the detail of the subject. As the Blackpool sunshine kindly emerged to assist the project, those who had their photo taken, were amazed at the clarity of their image, a copy of which Rob will be sending to each participant, as a thank-you for taking part.

Rob’s passion for his work shone through. His enthusiasm was infectious and those he approached, soon became enthralled by the project themselves. After just one session, Rob had concluded ‘We’ll definitely have to come back to Blackpool again. It is so rich in photographic opportunities and I was struck by the warmth of the Blackpool people!’. I’m sure that we will welcome him back in the near future, to provide more visitors with this unique opportunity to have an ‘old style’ photograph taken.

Rob’s work can be seen on his website

Author: Bev Carroll, Blackpool Museum Project Volunteer