Plates by Seán A MacKenna (1932-2012)

It is surprising what one finds on good old Feepay nowadays. I was just trawling through the many thousands of tintypes and ambrotypes that are listed worldwide when this one caught my eye. Not for the subject matter, although I do have a thing for chairs?, but because of the maker – Sean MacKenna.

I’d never met Sean but we had chatted online via various forums and websites. He always came across as friendly and helpful. His passing last year was a sad loss. What surprised me about Sean was that he had been shooting wet plate since the 1990’s. I had assumed its recent popularity in the UK was from the past decade.

My main connection with the wet plate community is via forums and Facebook but there are still wet plate photographers out there that are flying below the radar so to speak. It seems not everybody has/needs an active social media/web presence. Although Seans website is still active at the time of writing this blog post.

This is a quarter plate japanned ferrotype and a clear glass ambrotype backed with an asphaltum? metal sheet. Presented in paper sleeves and envelope.


Alex Boyd wrote on the British Photographic History website October 22nd 2012:

“It is with great sadness that I inform the community of the death of Seán MacKenna, a photographer and historian whose work with historic processes made a major contribution to the understanding of the field.

Originally an archaeological conservator at the Museum of London, Seán was regarded as the first person in the UK to actively use the wet-plate collodion process when he first started making ambrotypes and negatives some 15 years ago.

His knowledge and enthusiasm for early photography are reflected in the many years he spent as an American Civil War re-enactor and photographer, learning from contemporary US practitioners, original source material, and always striving for the utmost in authenticity.

Seán was still building his own cameras right up until his passing, and his knowledge of Dallmeyer lenses in particular made him an acknowledged expert within the community. He was known for his generous nature, and for his energy, passion and enthusiasm in passing on the knowledge to those starting out with historical processes. Thoughts are with his family at this time.”

I’m very pleased to add these contemporary plates to my collection of vintage tintypes and ambrotypes.

The ambrotype

The ferrotype

I hope I’m still shooting plates when I get to 80 years of age.