Before my time is up as the Narrator, I wanted to sit down with the new Artist-in-Residence Margaret Muza one last time (though I’m sure I’ll be back many times during her residency!) to get and share with you some of the back stories of the tintypes currently hanging in her studio. As the walls fill with new ones, including mine (see end of post), and she decides to add larger-scale photos and perhaps change the decor, it’s likely that some of these will be replaced. She began her stories with one of the most enigmatic ones. It’s hard not to notice his earthy stare.
This one is my Uncle Tom. I took this in front of the family cabin my grandpa built in Iron Mountain, Michigan. Oh, your family has a family cabin in Pembine? I know exactly where that is! And it’s 40-acres of land? Same here!
Well, we go there every summer, but now my Uncle Tom lives in Arizona and rarely comes home. He was really skinny this year because he was bitten by a scorpion (it’s not the first time!). He’s crazy . . . crazy cool. He loves Patron, and I love Patron, so any time we get together, we sit and have some Patron. When you’re around him, you want him to give you time–he’s that kind of guy. Again, he’s crazy cool. Like he calls his wife Vicki “his bride,” as in “This is my bride, Vicki.”
He never lets anyone take his photo, but when he saw me setting up my darkroom behind the cabin, he couldn’t resist asking what I was doing. I told him that he had to sit for a photograph. “No, no,” he said. But he did anyway.
This is my friend Heather. She’s an animator and editor. She had her baby five days after that photo was taken. We decked her out with flowers and she wore that black shawl. She gave it to me afterward and it’s hanging on the wall behind my desk in the studio now. I think it’s actually supposed to be a wall hanging like this, but I’m not sure. It could be a shawl. It’s definitely beautiful on her!
On the left is my sister Rachel near Cedar Creek. We were trying to do a mock wedding so I could have samples, hoping people would want me to photograph their weddings with tintypes. It was a beautiful day in the summer.
On the right is one of my other sisters, Claire. She’s the most cooperative and available, willing to sit for almost anything, letting me pose her when I have a concept in mind.
The woman on the left is Jolena, and the man on the right is my boyfriend, Jordan. They’re both double exposures. I especially love the one of Jordan because of how it perfectly captures his profile. One person said it looks like he’s looking out of a keyhole. You thought he was peaking out from behind something frosted? You can see his profile now, right?
I also wanted to know if any of the ephemera that fills every nook and cranny of her studio held any significance for her. It doesn’t sound like there are any earth-shattering stories behind any of them. In fact, as she held up little jars of beads and tiny nails and glitter (“Look at this cute bottle. It’s like a little salt shaker. For glitter.”), she mused that she really just like “little things that slip between the cracks.”
One of those things was half shell containing small tintypes no larger than 2×3 inches. “This is about the size that most people could afford back when tintype was popular,” she explained. “They could go to the fair and in a few minutes they could walk away with their portrait. Especially with these little tintypes, you know that someone held it in their hands. They sat, saw the process happen, held it in their hands–then either kept it or gave it to someone else. Who held it in their hands.”
There’s a little bit of history everywhere you turn in Margaret Muza’s studio. I encourage you to stop in, step back in time, delight in more of her stories, and sit for a tintype–maybe, just maybe, in the paper moon.
p.s. I didn’t sit in the paper moon; instead, I sat in a white t-shirt against the white lace on the wall. The effect is dramatic, I think! Although I’m not sure how to describe my expression . . .