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News Release —February 25, 2011

Revealing Character: Texas Tintypes

The Wittliff Collections acknowledge Frost Bank gift
with major exhibition of Robb Kendrick tintypes

Over 120 images on view February 25 – July 31, 2011
Reception + Program with the Artist on Saturday
, April 9 at 7:00 p.m.

SAN MARCOS, Texas—The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University-San Marcos present Revealing Character: Texas Tintypes by Robb Kendrick on view from February 25 through July 31, 2011. Kendrick, a frequent contributor to National Geographic, is a sixth-generation Texan who has been making tintypes for the past decade. He will be the guest speaker at the 7:00 p.m. exhibition reception and program on Saturday, April 9. A book signing with Kendrick will follow the program; a limited number of his books will be for sale by the University Bookstore.

Admission to both the exhibition and program is free and open to the public. The Wittliff Collections are located on the seventh floor of the Alkek Library at Texas State in San Marcos. Hours and directions are online.


In 2004, Frost Bank commissioned Kendrick to travel across thousands of miles of Texas, visiting more than 30 ranches to photograph cowboys and cowgirls as Senior Chairman Tom Frost said, “to document the character of the land as seen in the faces of its truest men and women, those we call cowboys.” Frost Bank featured the images in a marketing campaign then turned the project into an exhibition that traveled across Texas for more than three years. At the end of the tour, Frost donated all 32 tintypes and 12 archival lightjet prints from the exhibition to the Wittliff Collections, completing the Wittliff’s archive of the photographs Kendrick published in his Revealing Character monograph by Bright Sky Press in 2005.

Kendrick’s commitment to this project stems from his belief in the historical and cultural importance of working ranch hands in their many manifestations—vaqueros, buckaroos, cowpunchers, cowgirls and cowboys—and that “they will proudly and determinedly endure.” He’s published two books of these tintypes, Revealing Character and Still: Cowboys at the Start of the Twenty-First Century (UT Press, 2008).

Over 120 of Kendrick’s images from the Wittliff Collections’ permanent holdings will be on display in the exhibition, including some of his more recent works. Photographs on loan from the artist’s personal collection are also on view: the first tintype Kendrick made 10 years ago (enclosed in a union case he made from scratch); images from Still: Cowboys at the Start of the 21st Century, and pictures from his Changelings mummy series (Cloverleaf Press) photographed in Guanajuato, Mexico. Additionally for this exhibition, Kendrick has lent his boxed set of tintypes of the Tarahumara people mounted with magnets on letterpress boards, titled Raramuri: Thirteen Ferrotypes.

Invented in the mid 1800s, tintypes are made directly on a thin iron plate that has been coated with chemicals, exposed in a camera while still wet, and developed on the spot. Kendrick is one of only a few photographers in the U.S. making tintypes, using this historic wet-plate method. Each tintype he produces is one of a kind, handmade from start to finish.

Kendrick’s tintypes are environmental portraits of working cowboys with a natural timelessness. The sepia and blue tones, the intentional scratching of the surface of the image by the artist, add to the depth of each image. The lines and expression on the men and women’s faces reveal their dedication to the lonely, tough, yet rewarding job of being a cowboy. Collectively, these images reveal the individuality and independence of the people who have chosen this work—all the things that define character.

While there have been many photographic essays of working cowboys made over the years using numerous types of photographic methods, Kendrick’s images—original and postmodern—are the first tintypes to document the 21st century cowboy. Kendrick has said that the point of this project “has not been to romanticize the cowboy and transport him back to the 19th century, but to document those who still carry on the traditions, values, and lifestyles that many today would find isolating lonely, or simply too hard.” His images reveal a moral character of men and women who have honor, integrity, and pride in their jobs.


Robb Kendrick was born in Spur, Texas. He studied photography at East Texas State University, now Texas A&M-Commerce. After graduating, Kendrick received a summer internship with National Geographic. Since then, Kendrick has worked for Life, Sports Illustrated, Audubon, and Smithsonian magazines, and he has completed 15 stories for National Geographic in the past decade. His work was honored with inclusion in Through the Lens: National Geographic’s Greatest Photographs (2003) and one of his images was selected for the cover of In Focus: The Greatest Portraits of National Geographic (2004). The May 2003 issue showcased his 32-page story on Sherpas and the 50th anniversary of the summiting of Mt. Everest. Kendrick also photographs advertising campaigns for such clients as Texas Tourism, Eddie Bauer, and Frost Bank. He lives in Austin with his wife and sons. His website is