Joni Sternbach's Arresting Tintype Portraits


Joni Sternbach has been making tintype portraits of surfers at the waters edge since 2006. She began the series close to home in Montauk, NY and over the years the photographic project has taken her to California, Australia and as far as Cornwall in the UK, documenting this sub culture of surfers.

Sternbach uses both large format film and early photographic processes - a we plate technique developed nearly a century ago - to create her arresting contemporary landscapes and portraits. Her work centers on our relationship with water, contrasting some of the most desolate deserts in the American West to iconic surf beaches around the world.

She initially introduced her surf portraits in her book Surfland, which was met with praise. Now her book, Surf Site Tin Type, is in its second printing and further stands as an homage to surf, a way of life and to the people who practice it. The 123 Tintype photographs that are featured in Surf Site Tin Type, are striking in their detail and evoke the romance of surfing and the strong individualism of the men and women who live to ride the waves.

Sternbach's wet collodion process must be prepared and developed on location. The procedure is rather elaborate and fortunately draws spectators as well as entices new subjects - many of which are a result of a chance meeting on the beach.

Typical surf photos are action shots, riding some mighty wave and in vivid color, however Sternbach turns to a historic technique to capture something essential in these portraits and settings.

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All tintype images are Copyright ©Joni Sternbach.

the future joni

amico kids joni


Michael, Montauk, N.Y.



Robert-Wingnut joni

morro rock joni