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Photos of John Coffer, his home, and his work
*Black and white photographs are of tintypes from the exhibit John Coffer: The Daily Tintype which is on display at the Gerald Peters Gallery in New York City from March 27 to April 26, 2008.
Click an image to view the slideshow
As a young man, John Coffer lived in Florida in a two-bedroom condo and worked for a photography studio. He owned a sports car for fun and a van for hauling. He was living the American Dream, and he was miserable. Then he chose to change everything. He converted his modern possessions into a new life for himself. At the age of 26, with $125 in his pocket, he set off in the garb and with the gear of a traveling 19th century photographer. His horse pulled a darkroom wagon through small towns, and they camped in fields along the side of the road at night. John cooked over a campfire and read by kerosene lantern. He supported himself and his horse taking 19th century style photographs of civil war reenactors and average citizens.
After seven years on the road, John settled on land in the Finger Lakes district of upstate New York in 1985. He cleared trees, built a one-room log cabin and dug a well. Today he is still living a largely 19th century life but allows in some 21st century anachronisms. He works the land with horses and occasionally oxen, but uses solar powered panels to charge his electric fencing for the animal enclosures and has a laptop and website to promote his business: photography.
He uses a 21st century digital camera, but only to record each one-of-a-kind 19th century style photograph. John was largely responsible for the modern re-emergence of wet-plate colloidian tintype which has become a popular technique for many of today’s old-time photo buffs. People from all over the world come to John’s farm each summer to study this style of photography. John’s photographs have been displayed in numerous art galleries. His exhibit, John Coffer: The Daily Tintype, includes photos from his farm for each day in 2007. The photographs are on display at the Gerald Peters gallery in New York City from March 27 to April 26, 2008. The black and white photos seen here show samples from the exhibit.
John is living life on his own terms. He declared his independence from conventional choices at 26, freeing himself to live in the ways best suited to his unique personality. Making choices that were right for him, regardless of how unconventional, has brought him contentment and even fame. Lightweight backpackers are already accustomed to making gear choices that seem odd to others. John’s story may inspire you to create an authentic life for yourself in the front country – even if that life appears to veer from the path to the American Dream.
You can learn more about John Coffer and his work at his website http://www.johncoffer.com.