The Eye of Rie: 19th Century Spirit is Alive in the Core of Carson Valley

It’s not every day where you come across an era of artistry that was born from the same century your beloved community was founded in. But that’s exactly what Gardnerville local Rielynn Lunde is all about—a thoughtfully made, meticulous medium amid a community that fosters the same values—since discovering Tintype photography and running with it. 

So, What is a Tintype Anyway? 

In short, it’s a 19th-century style of photography that’s made by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal, or tin, that’s coated with a dark lacquer-style enamel to help develop the image. Using one of those Old West setups—you know, the type where you see a photographer duck under the drape of an enormous box on stilts—this style of photography was totally commonplace during the late 1800s. It replaced its predecessor, the daguerreotype, which was was a lot more complicated and expensive to make, where Tintype could be developed and processed in a matter of minutes. Better yet, because Tintypes are developed on a thin sheet of metal, it was common (and convenient!) to carry photographs of your loved ones in your own jacket pocket, which became an endearing tradition during the Civil War.

As for today? Having your own Tintype portrait taken is a novelty experience, and for Rie, an heirloom that will live on far beyond her (and her subjects) lives.

The Road Back to Carson Valley & the Evolution of Eye of Rie Photography & Tintype

Rie grew up in the Carson Valley region, then moved away briefly for a few different jobs before realizing she was too rooted in the Carson Valley story, to not continue being part of it all. In 2017 Rie and her husband moved back to Carson Valley, and brought her newfound Tintype photography along with her. Even though she always introduced her digital photography skills into various jobs through the years, it wasn’t until she discovered the work of Robb Kendrick, a shooter for National Geographic who spent many years shooting working ranches of the American West. She discovered one of his photography styles of choice was Tintype, where he would work from a trailer converted into a darkroom he pulled with his truck to Arizona, Nevada, and other Western states.

Rie realized this wasn’t exactly the sort of photography style you could pick up overnight—especially since most Tintype cameras and the rest of the gear that goes along with processing the photos can take years to accumulate. But, after careful research, Rie tracked down a Tintype instructor out of Portland, OR and she flew up to take a day class from him where she learned how to use this giant, old school camera, pour a plate, and develop a Tintype. And just like that, she was hooked. She didn’t have her vision totally dialed just yet, but knew she fell in love with the process and look of making Tintype. 

From then, the build was on, where she was able to create her own 4×5 camera and start building a library of all the equipment needed to make Tintype. After a few seasons working from her home garage and enduring the pandemic frontier, she realized Carson Valley’s high desert’s hot summers and long, brisk winters really impacted the development process and decided to look around town for a proper studio to rent, all while connecting with the small-but-mighty Tintype community across the country. Rie eventually found the perfect home for her photography studio in downtown Gardnerville, in the back of an old diamond cutting building off US 395 North.

More Than A Photo 

Rie will be the first to tell you—she’s completely captivated by the photographic process and human experience that comes along with Tintype. But since opening her studio in downtown Gardnerville she soon realized she’s surrounded by an art enamored, history loving community, and there’s no greater thrill than to be able to thread those interests together with a Tintype session. 

So, ready to book a session with Rie? Aside from getting to hang with Rie for an hour-or-so where you’ll learn exactly how to make a Tintype with you as the subject, you’ll get to experience the reward of slowing down in a culture that’s obsessed with immediacy. That, and instead of a digital file in your phone, you’re sure to walk away with a tangible, heirloom quality photo. 

Stop by the Eye of Rie studio during Gardnerville’s summertime wine walks on the third Thursday of every month for a studio tour. Better yet, learn more about the sizes of portraits offered, how to book an appointment, and even score a dog portrait session (coming soon!) on Eye of Rie’s website, right here.

To learn more about the Arts and Culture of the Carson Valley, click here

Eye of Rie Photography & Tintype
1452 US Highway 395 N. Gardnerville, NV 89410
(775) 997-1000