Today I am bringing you Providence local, Archer & Co. Tintype Photobooth creator, Phillip LeBlanc. I had the pleasure of meeting Phillip a few weeks ago and the moment I saw what he was doing I knew he needed to be a part of Winter Moon.
Kelly and I visited his workplace/studio at iolabs where we had an amazing photoshoot! Phillip and his lovely girlfriend, Melissa, photographed us with a vintage tintype camera! At the end of the shoot Phillip taught us how to use the vintage camera, how awesome is that?!
We know you’ll love this interview and encourage you to get a tintype portrait by Archer & Co.
Ladies and gentlemen, Phillip LeBlanc….
What is Archer & Co?
“Like everyone that graduates with a degree in fine arts the difficulty is establishing a balance between making art and holding down a real job. That’s when the Tintype photobooth idea came alive. The goal of the Tintype Photobooth was to find a middle ground, a profitable venture where a fine art craft could meet an everyday purpose. Besides the practical need for making a living, and having a creative outlet for myself, taking the photobooth into the real world was also a logical next step from my previous RISD thesis work.”
Tell us about Tintype and the process it takes to create one.
“A tintype is a direct positive photograph on a thin metal plate with either silver halide crystals suspended in wet collodion, or in our case, dry gelatin emulsion.”
“I won’t bore you with a long list of details but each plate is created from raw material and chemical that undergoes a series of laborious steps done myself by hand. I like to call the final result a ‘modern tintype’ as we have replaced the extremely toxic chemicals the original process involved with new and safer ones. However, the process itself remains historically authentic. In staying with tradition, I love bringing the photobooth to fairs and events as street tintype photographers had done through the 19th century.”
4X5 tintype. Phillip LeBlanc.
How did Archer & Co. come about?
“In short, this body of work is a photographic narrative following the life of Archer Flaneur, a metaphorical 20th turn of the century version of myself, experiencing life in the modern world as I have. A requirement of the thesis was to present this work at two gallery shows. For the second show, I took Archer to a new level of performance and created a carnival outside the gallery with face painting, a large-scale zoetrope, and ,you guessed it, live tintype portraits.”
What does Archer & Co. mean/stand for?
“When we first started I knew that Archers name would be included. The rest, coincidentally, fell into my lap upon finding an antique brief case perfect for storing tintype chemicals at a flea market. Its manufacturing label read Archer & Co. Baggage Build. The discovery felt like a small peace of the future falling into place. How fitting to add the Co. as a reference to my girlfriend Melissa, and friends and family that have been helping me run the photobooth at fairs from the beginning. Its also coincidence that a man named Fredrick Scott Archer developed the first chemical process for tintypes in the 1850’s!”
Why did you decide to use tintype as your creative medium?
“I look around today and see how much the screen has replaced real human connection and experience. Archer & Co. tintype photobooth embodies an experience and a bi-product (the handmade tintype) that exemplifies what’s becoming lost in these modern times.”
8×10 tintype. Phillip LeBlanc.
Inspiration plays a huge role in people’s creative process. Tell us what inspires you?
“Inspiration can be found anywhere and everywhere, one must simply know how to see and recognize it. The logo of the photobooth is the eye of providence yet the rays of light extend into numbers that resemble the aperture and shutter speeds labeled on many camera lenses. Our eyes anatomically work exactly the way a lens and camera does, changing the perspective changes the reality.”
Are you originally from Providence?
“Nope, Leicester Massachusetts.”
What made you decide to come and stay in Rhode Island?
“In 2007, I moved to Providence to study painting at RISD, since graduating I decided to stay largely to avoid the trend to move to New York city. I wanted to begin my career as an artist and start Archer & Co. in a place that was more economically viable to live as an artist.”
Favorite places to go in Providence.
“I love the Providence night life, the local bands, the venues and especially seeing the Tropigals (a great vintage dance troupe). We also have some awesome parks in RI. Prospect Park has such a great view for meditating and Lincoln Woods park is perfect to escape into nature, exercise, and enjoy the wildlife.”
Tell us some of the things you love about living and working here in Rhode Island.
“I’m privileged to work at iolabs (a custom printing and imaging company) at which I get to work with some great artists on displaying their work at gallery shows. I love the seasons in Rhode Island and particular its proximity to all the great places New England has to offer. We also have a great community of artists here in Providence.”
What is the best piece of advice anyone has given you?
“Don’t get me wrong, Ive been given plenty of awesome advice from friends, family, and mentors but the most important advise comes from within. There is a fire burning in all of us and it often points us in directions that are risky and and illogical but for good reasons. These directions help us realize who we are and where we are going.”
What advice would you give to our readers trying to start their own business?
“Archer & Co. made its first official event in the spring of 2011 and although we’ve come a long way, we haven’t quite reached the small business level. Were still facing many logistical issues when it comes to fairs and events and could use some marketing expertise to pick up our outreach but I haven’t let that discourage me.”
“Nothing great has ever been created without a string of roadblocks as a prelude.”
8×10 tintype. Phillip LeBlanc.
Describe your personal style.
“When I take the photobooth to events or fairs I’ll often dress as Archer, based off Charlie Chaplain’s tramp character. I could easily wear my bowler hat and suit all the time and slide right into the artistic hipster aesthetic but that’s never really appealed to me. My creative energy only enters into the art for the viewer, I don’t feel the need to externalize it into my appearance.”
“I like being an average looking crazy person.”
How do you take your coffee?
“With lots of espresso!”
“A day without laughter is a day wasted” – Charlie Chaplin
Who would you say you admire?
“A tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow, always hopeful of romance and adventure. Another quote from Charlie Chaplain summarizes why admire him.”
Any last thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
“As an artist, Ive always felt boxed into the “gallery” as the only serious way to show and sell ones work to the world. Seeking a new way to create and share art has meant all the difference to my art practice. I encourage all you creative thinkers out there to go out on a limb, break old boundaries and make new ground!”
8×10 tintype. Phillip LeBlanc.
How can our readers contact you and get an amazing tintype photograph taken by you?!
8 X 10 = Tintype portrait $50
4×5 = Tintype portrait $25
- You can find out where we will be setting up the photobooth for fairs and events by following us on the Archer & Co. Facebook page!
- If you’re not in the Rhode Island area– there’s great news!! Digital tintypes will also be available as a collaborative effort between Archer & Co. and iolabs. You can send us ANY digital photo, via email, and I will make it into a tintype! Once we receive the file it’s then inkjet printed onto a transparency which I then use to contact expose onto a tintype plate. (We plan to officially launch the details and pricing on the iolabs web site next month but shoot me an email if your interested now!)”
Be sure you check out Phillip’s studio and get photographed by him! His prices are outrageously affordable, and keeping the art of tintype alive is such a gem. We know we will treasure our tintypes!