Thursday, October 3, 2013

What Else Can I Do

This tintype could be Elisabeth and Christoph Rieckmann and their family in about 1870.

Wiki says:
Tintype, also melainotype and ferrotype, is a photograph made by creating a direct positive on a sheet of iron metal that is blackened by painting, lacquering or enamelling and is used as a support for a collodion photographic emulsion.

Photographers usually worked outside at fairs, carnivals etc. and as the support of the tintype (there is no actual tin used) is resilient and does not need drying, photographs can be produced only a few minutes after the picture is taken.

In a tintype, a very underexposed negative image is produced on a thin iron plate, lacquered or otherwise darkened, and coated with a collodion or silver-gelatin photographic emulsion. Since in a negative image the darker portions of the subject appear lighter, or in this case more transparent, the dark background gives the resulting image the appearance of a positive. The ability to employ underexposed images allows effective film speed to be increased, permitting shorter exposure time, a great advantage in portraiture.

First described as a usable process in 1853, the tintype process became very popular in United States, particularly during the Civil War. The process continued to enjoy significant use throughout the 19th century for inexpensive portraits, especially by street photographers.

What Else Can I Do

True love showed me how
I'm doing these days, coming
up behind me to
split her beak or head
on the glass wall between us.
She fluttered and called
as if I could hear
through the crystalline backlit
screams of hard living
or around corners
sinuous and so skittish.
I deny it all
of course. I will not
admit I am twisted up,
not on your tintype.

‎September ‎30, ‎2013 5:22 PM

This poem gives homage to my mother, who used to say "Not on your tintype." The phrase works like "Not on your life." only more mild. I searched for answers to this phrase on the internet sites and the best of them in the end suggested that it is a nonsense phrase, like "So's your old man" (1920s) and "Wanna buy a duck?" (1930s).

I have my own impression, because my mother used many substitute phrases for cussing outright, which I never heard her do, beyond hell or damn (but never God damn). I think that this phrase is one of those substitutions. It does appear to replace "Not on your life." which is an oath and thus arguably unChristian. My mother would use Gosh for God and Shoot for shit too. I think my mother took "Not on your tintype" from her mother or others of her mother's generation, or perhaps even her grandmother, who was influential on Mom and directly of the generation using tintypes and also this phrase. What I mean, "Not on your tintype" can't be older than the Civil War by much if at all. It was in popular usage all the way up past 1900 to sometime in the 1920s perhaps.

My mother used the phrase occasionally into the 1960s. I don't remember her using it later than that. In the 1970s she went into ministerial training and spent the rest of her life in the role of a Unity Minister. I can imagine her, however, perhaps engaging in play, say a game of Monopoly or some such and saying "Not on your tintype!" in relation to someone inviting her to pay rent or something. That is the sort of context I remember the phrase as she said it.

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