Our Living Past: A Platinum Portrait of Music Maker

Photographer, Timothy Duffy

October 10, 2018 – February 28, 2019

Timothy Duffy is a champion of the true pioneers and forgotten heroes of American roots music. For decades now, he has worked tirelessly to capture their spirits in his photography By founding the Music Maker Relief Foundation, Duffy has provided for these musicians’ basic needs, built their careers, and presented their music to the world.

Duffy’s use of wet plate collodion photography, a medium dating back to the 1850s, transports viewers into the space of Our Living Past, weaving a timeless and emotionally engaging story of the American South.

Taj Mahal, a Grammy-winning blues musician has been a Music Maker collaborator for more than two decades. He credits Duffy’s work not merely for its rich aesthetic quality, but for the evident respect and affection for the subjects. “So many photographs of older bluesmen or African-Americans are more voyeuristic, as opposed to the energy of the people – what they do, what it is they’re into – coming across in the photograph… But Duffy never treads on people’s dignity.”


Photographic Process

Original tintypes are photographed to produce large negatives used to create these magnificent platinum/palladium prints. The platinum printing process was developed in England in the 1870s. A 100% cotton rag paper is hand coated with a solution containing platinum and palladium salts and an iron oxalate sensitizer. After drying the coated paper, it is exposed through a photographic negative to ultraviolet light, which causes a reduction of the platinum or palladium salts to pure metal. After clearing to remove the remaining salts, the final print consists of pure platinum and palladium metallic fragments laid on to and embedded within the paper. The process used today is virtually unchanged from that first patented in 1873.



The Music Maker Relief Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit, was founded to preserve the musical traditions of the South by directly supporting the musicians who make it, ensuring their voices will not be silenced by poverty and time. Music Maker gives future generations access to their heritage through documentation and performance programs that build knowledge and appreciation of America’s musical traditions.

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