Edith Weiler, wife of Bill, death January 6, 2019

Bill Weiler suffered the loss of Edith in January. “Sadly, my beloved wife, Edith Weiler, passed away in January after a long fight with cancer.  She was a professional photographer and loved visiting campus for all the ‘photo ops,’ and to visit with our favorite priest, Fr. Herb Yost at Holy Cross Assoc. “

Bill was Captain of the Irish Guard our senior year,  Chairman of the Mardi Gras Carnival, and a past president of the New Hampshire ND Alumni Club.

An article Bill sent presents Edith and her creative use of an old process in her work.

Artist Profile: Edith Weiler

Chief Mark Tibbetts with Volunteer Matthew Kimball (left) Volunteer Charles Butler (right)
Liz Bulkley•Start Date:January 20, 2017Issue Date:January 21, 2017

The Philbrick-James Library in Deerfield features the work of area artists in its gallery on a rotating basis. On display until the end of January 2017 is the photographic work of Edith Weiler.

There’s no question that the Philbrick-James Library has, until now, never exhibited the types of photos Edith Weiler creates: Tintypes. The images are contemporary and are made using the 19th century process that gave us the first-ever presidential photo, of Abraham Lincoln.

The simple definition of “tintype” is “a photograph taken as a negative, then turned positive on a metal plate.” 

And that definition is about the only simple thing you can say about the process of creating a tintype. Those in the know refer to the craft as “wet paint collodion photography.” It involves the perfect mixing of volatile chemicals, some liquid silver, excruciatingly careful timing, and lots and lots of time. Oh, and a good eye. 

Jack Sherburne – Resident – Age 94 Air Force Pilot in three wars – Past Town Selectman – State Rep

Deerfield resident Edith Weiler has been creating such photographs for the past seven years or so. She loves the uniqueness of the 19th-century medium and how it brings the past to life. 

“Tintype is actually a nickname. During the Civil War, if photographers ran short of metal, they flattened tin cans — anything strong enough to apply chemicals to, including glass and metal plates of any kind.”

Edith uses trophy plates for her work because they’re easy to cut and they’re readily accessible.

It sounds very demanding. It is very demanding.

“It’s not at all forgiving. You can’t adjust anything once it’s finished and lots of things can go badly. I’ve had a few experiences where I just wanted to cry and quit because I’d have a perfectly wonderful image but I didn’t rinse it properly and it just turned black.”

But when things go well, the results can be striking.

“Lilly” – Deerfield resident 

Edith was a trained photographer when she learned about tintypes on a whim. A friend urged her to come with her to a workshop given by a well-recognized photographer specializing in tintypes. The John Coffer workshop took place in the town of Dundee in the Finger Lakes region of New York in 2010. 

“The minute I stepped on the property I was hooked. It’s a mix of things, it’s part chemistry, part photography, and part mystery.”

Edith says the work is dirty, requires knowing precise details about several chemicals and how they interact with each other and with the environment. They have to be mixed precisely and yet the end process is 100% guesswork.

Garland Barn Rt 107 – day before crew arrived from Barnyard Builders to dismantle

I wondered how long it takes to create a tintype from start to finish. There’s no easy answer to that. Edith says preparing the live (and highly dangerous) chemicals alone takes about half an hour.

Packing up the car with chemicals and equipment takes another half hour.

“The camera weighs 35 pounds. I use a Pelican waterproof box with a shroud to create a kind of free-standing dark room. It (the darkroom) is about the size of a suitcase. I put it on a suitcase stand like the ones you find in hotels and on the top there’s a solar panel with a red filter.”

It’s kind of like “Have Darkroom, Will Travel.”

Gary Duquette Chief of Police

By this time in the conversation we lose sight of how long things take and discuss the materials. Edith mentions that the environment has to be just right. The fussiness of the chemicals means it needs to be no colder than 50° and no warmer than 85°. Collodion boils at 89°. There’s plenty more involved. 

“The developer shouldn’t be mixed until you’re ready to use it. I need about six gallons of water, three water trays for the dark room, one for developing, one for rinsing, and the third one for the second rinse.”

This is a precise undertaking. So, rather than trying to describe in detail and with great accuracy all the detail and great accuracy required to create a photograph using the tintype process, you may want to read the Artist Statement Edith Weiler created for her exhibit at Philbrick-James library. You can find it here.

Joanne Wasson – Lifetime Resident – Age 92 – Town Historian – Writer – Photographer – First town Woman Selectman – Retired Teacher

Edith tells me she’s not a patient person and indicates her devotion to photographing in this manner is a testament to her passion. 

“That’s the absolute love and intrigue I have for it. This keeps you in the moment. You can’t think of anything else. You can’t stop and go back. You have to start it, you have to follow through, and then you have to finish it. You have to concern yourself with the process of time.”

“The other part I like about this is the adventure. Like at the transfer station, I spent all day there but I had the worst chemical spill ever. My entire darkroom fell over.”

She sighs.

Dennis Paradise – Resident – Deerfield Transfer Station Employee

“Everything went everywhere. How appropriate that it happened at the transfer station. But I had to come home, clean everything, remix everything and I made myself go back because I knew I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t do it then. And I’m so glad I went back because I did portraits of people all day, and still lifes of recycle material.”

One of the things she especially loves is that while the images of people in portraits appear to be fixed, there are between five and ten seconds where the exposure takes place. She says that’s one of the places where the mystery of these types of photographs lie.

“When you’re capturing people, it’s really like a movie. It’s a collection of ten seconds of thought and movement. During those ten seconds that person, or those people are thinking about something.”

It’s not like stretching time quite, but it does make me consider Einstein’s theory of bending time. And yet, the images are fixed, still photos.

Rick Pelletier – Resident – Building Inspector with “Herb” – Resident – Town Welder

Most of the photographs in the library exhibit are of Deerfield, in celebration of Deerfield’s 250’s Anniversary in 2016. She displayed them at the Fairgrounds so I asked what kinds of comments people made about them.

“Wow, that’s spooky,” was a not uncommon response.

Deerfield Fair Grounds

Edith uses a reproduction 19th century camera and an authentic 19th century lens. Everything she sees through the lens is backwards and upside down.

“In the modern-day world, it’s quite fascinating to go from a digital image that you can take in seconds and get results to something that takes hours before you’re even ready to start.”

Even Edith laughs at the disparity between the two styles.

Deerfield Center Gazebo

“I just love it. I love the messiness. It’s so hands-on and I think that’s the big intrigue and that every step of it is my doing.”

Edith Weiler