Piece image

A 21st Century Pioneer Experience

From: Megan Martin
Length: 05:31

John Coffer, a Tintype photographer, takes us on a wagon ride into Dundee, NY Read the full description.

Johncoffer_small This is a piece about tintype photographer and artist, John Coffer. When modern life seemed to fail him in his late 20s, he sold all of his belongings, bought a horse and cart, and traveled around the United States by back roads. He replicated the traveling lifestyle of 19th century tintype photographers. Along the way he honed his craft with in wetplate photography, wrote a few books, and gave birth to a his own personal philosophy. We find him on his farm in Upstate New York, where he takes us into town on his buggy.

To hear the full audio, sign up for a free PRX account or log in.

More from Megan Martin

Piece image

Recordar es Volver (Remembering is Returning) (11:24)
From: Megan Martin

A portrait of a farmer, his wife--the tortilla maker, and their life in Teposcolula, Oaxaca.
Caption: Dioniso Arriola

El Michoacano en la Mixteca (The Michoacano in the Mixteca) (14:08)
From: Megan Martin

A migration story told and sung by Dionisio Arriola; recorded in Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca
Caption: Irineo Sánchez Hernández

Cuando la Fuerza Abandona para Uno (When strength abandons you) (08:33)
From: Megan Martin

A migration Story told by Irineo Sánchez Hernández; recorded in Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca
Caption: María Guadalupe Maldonado Sandoval

Yo También Puedo (So Can I) (13:17)
From: Megan Martin

A Migration Story: María Maldonado; recorded in Mixteco,and translated by her sister Araceli Maldonado Sandoval into Spanish.
Caption: San Andrés Chicahuaxtla

El Ciclo (The Cycle) (09:30)
From: Megan Martin

A farmer's story; a mix of poetry, sound and interviews.
Caption: "Carlos"

La Leche Subió (The Milk Went Up) (06:57)
From: Megan Martin

A Migration story: From San Juan Mixtepec, Oaxaca to Portland, Oregon
Caption: Epifami Jiménez Santiago

La Primera Vez (The First Time) (17:59)
From: Megan Martin

A portrait of a chicken vendor in San Andrés Chicahuaxtla, Oaxaca.
Caption: Anderson and Tereso Bautista

Un Dueto (A Duet) (10:45)
From: Megan Martin

A portrait of two musicians in the Bautista Family and the town they live in--San Juan Mixtepec, Oaxaca
Piece image

Creative Time: 33 Years of Public Art in NYC, John Waters (02:19)
From: Megan Martin

John Waters & The Hellfire Club: an audio stop on a tour of Creative Time's 33 Years of Public Art series
Piece image

Creative Time: 33 Years of Public Art in NYC, DJ Spooky (02:12)
From: Megan Martin

DJ Spooky & The Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors Series: an audio stop on a tour of Creative Time's 33 Years of Public Art series

Piece Description

This is a piece about tintype photographer and artist, John Coffer. When modern life seemed to fail him in his late 20s, he sold all of his belongings, bought a horse and cart, and traveled around the United States by back roads. He replicated the traveling lifestyle of 19th century tintype photographers. Along the way he honed his craft with in wetplate photography, wrote a few books, and gave birth to a his own personal philosophy. We find him on his farm in Upstate New York, where he takes us into town on his buggy.

1 Comment Atom Feed

User image

Review of A 21st Century Pioneer Experience

This piece was produced for but not aired on "Weekend America." Given the byzantine difficulties of getting independently produced work aired on "Weekend America," I'm not surprised that this able cutaway was rejected from "WA"'s slush pile.

The main thing I found lacking here was some sense of tintype photographer John Coffer's actual work. I would've liked to have heard producer Megan Martin describe a couple or three of Coffer's portraits or landscapes in detail.

Otherwise, Martin does an exemplary job of accompanying Coffer while he shops for groceries, driving in a horse-drawn cart. As Brownie trots to town, Coffer tells about how he grew up in Las Vegas and Florida, pursuing the high life, only to realize he "felt alone in the crowd a lot of times." Realizing he "wasn't good at living the modern life style," he decided to say bye-bye to cars, digital cameras, and newfangled thingamabobs. Rather than moving to Walden Pond, he sold his worldly goods to purchase a 50-acre farm outside of tiny Dundee, deep in the heart of the Finger Lakes district in upstate New York. Coffer's quest to, in Thoreau's words, "simplify, simplify" is inspiring to hear about. And whereas Thoreau returned from his cabin on Walden Pond to his mother's house in Concord every night, Coffer appears to be truly a loner -- unless he's hiding somebody in his hayloft!

While the bleep-bleeps of a supermarket cash register harmonize with recorded sales pitches for fresh Gala apples and the "hello, how are you?" of a female checkout worker, one of Coffer's sentences echoes in our minds: "I wanted to emulate the horse-drawn traveling photographer of the nineteenth century as closely as I possibly could."

Move over, Mathew Brady. Like a Civil War reenactment devotee, John Coffer yearns to re-create life as it was centuries ago in his pioneering wet-plate photographs, as well as in his everyday comings and goings.

Broadcast History

Weekend America (not aired) from APM.

Related Website

www.johncoffer.com