Courtney Smith recently sat for a portrait session at Salt & Silver Studio. She loves her palm-inspired portrait and says it was a cool experience from start to finish. CONTRIBUTED

In an age where photo editing and filters are the norm, there’s something refreshing about photography from a bygone era, where what you see is truly what you get. 

“You get this raw image, it’s the real you,” said Jen Brack of the 1850s-era portrait photography she recently introduced to Islamorada. “Raw, unadulterated, unfiltered, no Photoshop and it is  purely analog. I love that,” she added. 

Tucked away in the back of the beer garden behind the Florida Keys Brewing Co. sits Brack’s newly opened business called Salt & Silver Studio Tintype Portrait Photography. Tintype is an old form of photography that creates an image on a thin piece of metal, in Brack’s case aluminum that is later baked and coated with enamel. 

“It’s a chemical process so it is chemistry essentially,” said Brack of the process that combines salted collodion and silver nitrate to produce an image. 

“The person sitting is able to watch every step of it. They see their image come to life. I think that’s really where the magic happens,” Brack said. 

“I love what she’s doing because there’s nothing like it here,” said portrait client Courtney Smith. “I think we all crave something new and novel that is not being done.”

Smith is a registered dietitian nutritionist who owns The Keys to Nutrition in Key Largo. She  recently sat for a portrait during a Thursday evening Morada Way Art Walk session and was thrilled with the results. 

“It was a very cool process to see from start to finish. I didn’t realize the timing and how complicated the whole process is,” Smith said. 

Brack has been into photography for as long as she can remember, shooting candid street scenes with her 35mm camera. She always enjoyed the darkroom developing process. 

“I’ve always wanted to have my own studio and when this opportunity became available, I definitely wanted to take it,” she said. 

But getting her new tintype portrait studio up and running was not an easy undertaking. 

“This has been a labor of love; literally blood, sweat and tears,” Brack said. 

Brack and her husband, Daniel, spent six months renovating a rickety old shack behind the  brewing company. They sealed the windows, put in new floors, new walls and new track lighting. A new roof, paid for by the Morada Way Arts and Cultural District, was also added to the building.  

The couple bought an Intrepid film camera from England and modified it for the wet-plate  collodion process. A lens was sourced from Germany. Everything in the small studio is a  snapshot back in time, right down to the music coming from an old vinyl record player. 

“It’s very eclectic and her studio is a breath of fresh air, in my opinion, for the Keys,” Smith said. 

Brack has a lot on her plate. On top of opening a new business, she recently gave birth to her second daughter. Baby Evelyn joins her big sister, 4-year old Elida. 

When not taking care of her daughters or working in her photography studio, Brack is busy serving the community in her role as a lieutenant with the Monroe County Fire Rescue. She’s been with the fire department for 10 years. 

“I’ve got my full-time job, two kids, a husband, I started a business, my husband is also a small business owner, a commercial fisherman. We’re doing it. We’re living the Islamorada dream,” said Brack with a laugh. 

Although it’s only been open a few months, Brack says feedback from clients has been really positive. 

“We have a lot of people that love the historical aspect of it, the chemistry aspect and the scientific approach, the photographic aspect. It really touches a wide spectrum of people from all  ages,” Brack said.

Salt & Silver Studio Tintype Portrait Photography is open during most Morada Way Art Walks  taking place on the third Thursday of every month. Brack also does pop-up sessions during events taking place in the arts district. Portrait sessions are also available by appointment. To book an appointment, email or call 305-394-1995. Sessions start at $75.

Kellie Butler Farrell
Kellie Butler Farrell is a journalist who calls Islamorada home. Kellie spent two decades in television news and also taught journalism at Barry University in Miami and Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, UAE. She loves being outside, whether spending time on the water or zipping down the Old Highway on her electric bike, Kellie is always soaking up the island lifestyle. Kellie and her husband own an electric bike rental company, Keys Ebikes.