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Rachel Portesi will demostrate how she makes tintype photographs in an online talk on Jan. 21.

The Arts

BMAC hosts two events related to ‘Hair Portraits’

Participants should register in advance at to receive a Zoom link. Both events are free.

BRATTLEBORO—The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) presents two online talks in January related to “Rachel Portesi: Hair Portraits,” an exhibit of tintype photographs on view through Feb. 14.

Helen Sheumaker, Ph.D., author of Love Entwined: The Curious History of Hairwork in America, presents “Linking Us Fondly: Hairwork in 19th Century America” on Thursday, Jan. 14, at 7 p.m. Her talk will explore the practice of transforming hair into mementos, one of the inspirations for Portesi’s photographs of women with their hair pinned to walls in elaborate designs.

Sheumaker is an associate teaching professor in history and global and intercultural studies at Miami University, the co-editor of “American Material Culture: An Encyclopedia,” and the author of “Artifacts from Modern America.”

Portesi herself will offer a tintype photography demonstration and discussion on Thursday, Jan. 21, at 7 p.m. from her studio via Zoom. She will demonstrate her process of creating the tintype photographs in “Hair Portraits,” each of which is the result of a 26-second exposure directly onto a thin sheet of metal.

“I have always been drawn toward the lack of control, the mystery of the final image that emerges, and — because there is no negative — the fact that each tintype photograph is an original,” Portesi said. “It feels like a magic trick.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #595 (Wednesday, January 13, 2021). This story appeared on page A6.

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