David V. Tinder was born in Lima, Ohio, in 1926, and moved to Flint, Michigan, as a child. He served in the United States Navy as an electronic technician's mate until he was honorably discharged in July of 1946. Dave Tinder attended Flint Junior College for one year before transferring to the University of Michigan, which awarded him a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics in 1949.
Tinder spent the majority of his career as a project engineer and engineering manager to new product development in the Detroit area. He worked for manufacturers and automotive suppliers including Dura Corporation, McCord Corporation, and United Technologies. Tinder developed many successful products and has been issued sixteen United States patents plus a number in foreign countries. Dave Tinder retired from United Technologies, Automotive Products Division in 1990.
Tinder began collecting antiques in the late 1950s, starting with leaded glass lamps, art glass and ceramics, Art Nouveau pewter, and Japanese bronzes. Inspired by William C. Darrah's 1964 book A History of Stereographs in America and Their Collection, he amassed a large group of international photographic stereo views. By the early 1970s he began trading his international collection for Michigan stereo views and other early photographic formats related to Michigan. Eventually this would include examples of virtually every popular photographic format used by both professional and amateur photographers in the first century of photography.
Tinder became increasingly interested in the lives and careers of the photographers represented in his collection and began creating The Directory of Early Michigan Photographers. The combination of his collection and research has led to his recognition as the leading authority on the subject of early Michigan photography.