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Model
Model Sarah
Posts: 38,725
Columbus, Ohio, US


A friend of mine sent an email to me with a photo attatched that was dated back around the 1870's.

The email is as follows;

Family records indicate that the woman we believe to be the one on the left
was born in 1848.

The location is on Benefit Street in Providence, close to where the Rhode
Island School of Design is presently located. Note that the street is
unpaved.

Looking at the two women, I would judge them both to be under
thirty, the one on the left looks to me to be not much over 25 if at all.

That would put the photo in the 1870-1880 time frame.  I am wondering about the technology at that time: was it possible to have had a photo that good at that time?  Money would not have been an issue, so if the technology was available, then I am guessing that they would have been able to afford it.


Here is the photo:

http://i97.photobucket.com/albums/l202/Artmodelsarah/ACABSuzetteresized.jpg

here's the link to the larger size if you need more detail; http://i97.photobucket.com/albums/l202/ … uzette.jpg

If anything, he and I would love any and all information about photography and photographic technology in this time period. We believe it to be on a wet plate and definitely 4x5 or larger. But for some reason, I dont think i've ever seen a photo prior to 1900 that had quality this great. I am apparently mistaken.
Feb 08 12 08:53 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Jerry Nemeth
Posts: 26,745
Dearborn, Michigan, US


Check to see if the clothes match this time period.
Feb 08 12 08:56 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Karl Blessing
Posts: 30,853
Grand Rapids, Michigan, US


When I worked at the camera store downtown, in the basement we had glass plates usually 4x5 and some 8x10 sized though not exactly those dimensions), that were from around 1890-1910, when scanned on a large format film scanner, the quality is impeccable, basically had higher quality than some of those 20+ megapixel stuff now days.

However keep in mind actually taking the pictures were far more cumbersome and slower paced, and course low light is next to impossible without long exposure (thus why many shots were outside or somewhat blurry/soft from indoor lighting). Also many of the older chemicals reacted to different wavelengths differently why some people seemed kind of off (i.e.: blue sensitive emulsion, etc)

If I can dig up any of the old scans I saved years ago I'll post them here.

But it's also completely possible that the time period could be off, we once had several glass plates of what appeared to be something like San Francisco, that we guessed were probably 20s or so, but turned out they were shortly after the major earthquake there as had shitload of huts and other stuff.
Feb 08 12 08:57 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Randy Henderson Images
Posts: 777
Springfield, Missouri, US


I see nothing to indicate that it is a fake.

It would have been shot with an orthochromatic process, which would make blues appear white, which is the case in the sky.

The roads are dirt, the costumes are true, and note that there is a 3rd horse, captured by accident,  between the 2 in the front.  If the picture were faked, they certainly wouldn't bring in a 3rd horse and have it hidden in the background.  it looks good.

The main reason for quality issues with old images are

1.  THey have been damaged over time
2.  The slow emulsion required tons of light or a slow shutter speed, causing a lot of blur.

Here you have a bright, sunny scene, thus a faster shutter speed (froze the dog and horses) and a sharp picture.
Feb 08 12 09:03 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Leonard Gee Photography
Posts: 16,032
Sacramento, California, US


Model Sarah wrote:
If anything, he and I would love any and all information about photography and photographic technology in this time period. We believe it to be on a wet plate and definitely 4x5 or larger. But for some reason, I dont think i've ever seen a photo prior to 1900 that had quality this great. I am apparently mistaken.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_photography

Most photographs were contact prints or "tintype" where the capture material was the actual finished product (many different processes and names). Because there was no enlargement, the lens quality looks sharp. But since lenses were uncoated, the contrast was lower.

Feb 08 12 09:03 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Steve Ingram
Posts: 2
Saint Joseph, Illinois, US


I shoot wet plate, and this photo is looks like early dry plate.

Wet plate was invented in 1851 and was popular through the mid 1870's when the dry plate negative was invented. People loved the change from wet plate to dry plate, because they could load their holders with glass plates and expose them on a Sunday and process them any time. Wet plate has to be poured, sensitized, developed, fixed all on site so you need more than a camera: you need a portable darkroom as well.

Take care,
steve
Feb 08 12 09:06 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Photographe
Posts: 2,350
Bristol, England, United Kingdom


If what you say is correct about the lady's date of birth, it is safe to say these photos are post 1839 and pre-Eastman era. This means they are "Gelatin Dry Plate" photographs. This basically means the photographer's tent associated with early photography was not needed and shorter exposure times were possible.

The evidence of this is the fact that they are sitting on horses, which tend to move.

I'm curious as to why you think this is wet plate work.

Something about the image in general though is particularly fine for the period and I wonder if it is much later. I've family photographs from the same period and the quality is noticably different.

There's a whopping great clue, if you look at the box on the pavement, it appears to be for 10 x 8 plates.
Feb 08 12 09:08 am  Link  Quote 
Model
Model Sarah
Posts: 38,725
Columbus, Ohio, US


Randy Henderson Images wrote:
I see nothing to indicate that it is a fake.

It would have been shot with an orthochromatic process, which would make blues appear white, which is the case in the sky.

The roads are dirt, the costumes are true, and note that there is a 3rd horse, captured by accident,  between the 2 in the front.  If the picture were faked, they certainly wouldn't bring in a 3rd horse and have it hidden in the background.  it looks good.

The main reason for quality issues with old images are

1.  THey have been damaged over time
2.  The slow emulsion required tons of light or a slow shutter speed, causing a lot of blur.

Here you have a bright, sunny scene, thus a faster shutter speed (froze the dog and horses) and a sharp picture.

Um it isnt fake at all. That isnt the issue here.

Feb 08 12 09:10 am  Link  Quote 
Model
Model Sarah
Posts: 38,725
Columbus, Ohio, US


Rollo David Snook wrote:
If what you say is correct about the lady's date of birth, it is safe to say these photos are post 1839 and pre-Eastman era. This means they are "Gelatin Dry Plate" photographs. This basically means the photographer's tent associated with early photography was not needed and shorter exposure times were possible.

The evidence of this is the fact that they are sitting on horses, which tend to move.

I'm curious as to why you think this is wet plate work.

Something about the image in general though is particularly fine for the period and I wonder if it is much later. I've family photographs from the same period and the quality is noticably different.

There's a whopping great clue, if you look at the box on the pavement, it appears to be for 10 x 8 plates.

I am not convinced it is wet plate it was just a suggestion.

Hm... interesting.

Feb 08 12 09:11 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Photographe
Posts: 2,350
Bristol, England, United Kingdom


There may well be some clues in the horses' tack as well. The carriage behind also.

I'm going to offer a guess of 1885 give or take 2-3 years. Possibly earlier to 1875, definitely not much later than late 80's.
Feb 08 12 09:13 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Randy Henderson Images
Posts: 777
Springfield, Missouri, US


Model Sarah wrote:

Um it isnt fake at all. That isnt the issue here.

I understand.  But your question was whether the technology was available to create a photograph of that quality at that time period. 

What I am saying is that, if it weren't, someone shot it later and tried to make it look like it was shot earlier.  I see no evidence of that.

Feb 08 12 09:13 am  Link  Quote 
Model
Model Sarah
Posts: 38,725
Columbus, Ohio, US


Leonard Gee Photography wrote:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_photography

Most photographs were contact prints or "tintype" where the capture material was the actual finished product (many different processes and names). Because there was no enlargement, the lens quality looks sharp. But since lenses were uncoated, the contrast was lower.

Ahh... wow thanks for the link. This is very fascinating stuff to me.

Feb 08 12 09:13 am  Link  Quote 
Model
Model Sarah
Posts: 38,725
Columbus, Ohio, US


Randy Henderson Images wrote:

I understand.  But your question was whether the technology was available to create a photograph of that quality at that time period. 

What I am saying is that, if it weren't, someone shot it later and tried to make it look like it was shot earlier.  I see no evidence of that.

No I didnt ask if there were, I was just shocked there actually is and I want to know more about it. I'm a photographer as well, and I shoot with mainly cameras from the 30's - 50's range and i'm starting to get into wet plate so absorbing as much info as I can is a great thing. smile

Feb 08 12 09:14 am  Link  Quote 
Model
V Laroche
Posts: 2,745
New Orleans, Louisiana, US


Wait, so you don't think it's fake, but you also aren't sure it's real...?? Huh?
Feb 08 12 09:17 am  Link  Quote 
Model
Model Sarah
Posts: 38,725
Columbus, Ohio, US


V Laroche wrote:
Wait, so you don't think it's fake, but you also aren't sure it's real...?? Huh?

Um, no. I never thought it was fake I just didnt realize that technology was that amazing then. I never thought about the cameras they used and the processes etc. Which is strange, because I love that sort of thing. I suppose I just didnt think it was done back then.

I am surprised and fascinated. No more, no less. smile

Feb 08 12 09:24 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
MMDesign
Posts: 18,647
Louisville, Kentucky, US


Brady, et al., shot the Civil War and got excellent results.

Roger Fenton shot the Crimean War in 1855 and produced this image.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/10/Fenton_cannonballs_crimea.jpg/784px-Fenton_cannonballs_crimea.jpg
Feb 08 12 09:27 am  Link  Quote 
Model
Model Sarah
Posts: 38,725
Columbus, Ohio, US


Rollo David Snook wrote:
There may well be some clues in the horses' tack as well. The carriage behind also.

I'm going to offer a guess of 1885 give or take 2-3 years. Possibly earlier to 1875, definitely not much later than late 80's.

Huh, duly noted.

He's going to see if he can get the records to indicate when the road was paved to see if that helps date it.

Feb 08 12 09:27 am  Link  Quote 
Model
Model Sarah
Posts: 38,725
Columbus, Ohio, US


MMDesign wrote:
Brady, et al., shot the Civil War and got excellent results.

Roger Fenton shot the Crimean War in 1855 and produced this image.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/10/Fenton_cannonballs_crimea.jpg/784px-Fenton_cannonballs_crimea.jpg

Ahh this beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

I'm just so beside myself that photography was this great as far quality, clarity, etc. I'm going to do more research. Any and all examples, information is very welcomed.

Feb 08 12 09:28 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Matt Knowles
Posts: 3,551
Ferndale, California, US


My wife who is an expert in vintage clothes dates the photograph to the early 1890s due to the clothes and hairstyles.
Feb 08 12 09:31 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
MMDesign
Posts: 18,647
Louisville, Kentucky, US


http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d2/Roger_Fenton%27s_waggon.jpg/570px-Roger_Fenton%27s_waggon.jpg

Roger Fenton's studio, 1855.
Feb 08 12 09:31 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
NewBoldPhoto
Posts: 4,894
PORT MURRAY, New Jersey, US


Hey Sarah
You may enjoy this http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/sally-mann
And yes 19th century technology is more than adequate. If anything the modern tendency to exult convenience has reduced the quality of photography.
Feb 08 12 09:32 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Photographe
Posts: 2,350
Bristol, England, United Kingdom


lol, rather rapidly adding five years and changing my view to 1890c.

I'm envious, my photographs that I have aren't as well preserved or crisp.

It's incredible to think Roger Fenton was in the Crimea...
Feb 08 12 09:34 am  Link  Quote 
Model
Model Sarah
Posts: 38,725
Columbus, Ohio, US


MMDesign wrote:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d2/Roger_Fenton%27s_waggon.jpg/570px-Roger_Fenton%27s_waggon.jpg

Roger Fenton's studio.

Ha! Yes I just stumbled upon that! 1855 I think.

Feb 08 12 09:34 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Christopher Hartman
Posts: 53,743
Buena Park, California, US


MMDesign wrote:
Brady, et al., shot the Civil War and got excellent results.

Roger Fenton shot the Crimean War in 1855 and produced this image.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/10/Fenton_cannonballs_crimea.jpg/784px-Fenton_cannonballs_crimea.jpg

are those canon balls?

Feb 08 12 09:35 am  Link  Quote 
Model
Model Sarah
Posts: 38,725
Columbus, Ohio, US


NewBoldPhoto wrote:
Hey Sarah
You may enjoy this http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/sally-mann
And yes 19th century technology is more than adequate. If anything the modern tendency to exult convenience has reduced the quality of photography.

Yep. I've seen that. I've heard some of my photographs are similar to her style but i'd never in a million years compare myself to her work. I admire it so much, and I just discovered her stuff maybe 2-3 years ago.

I absolutely 100% agree with your last statement as well.

Feb 08 12 09:36 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
NewBoldPhoto
Posts: 4,894
PORT MURRAY, New Jersey, US


Christopher Hartman wrote:

are those canon balls?

Either that or they had some really big horses.

Feb 08 12 09:36 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Photographe
Posts: 2,350
Bristol, England, United Kingdom


Model Sarah wrote:

Ahh this beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

I'm just so beside myself that photography was this great as far quality, clarity, etc. I'm going to do more research. Any and all examples, information is very welcomed.

Although this just appears to be a field with some cannonballs, it has a lot of meaning. The British, Turkish and French forces still used cannon balls, but the Russians had new forms of explosives, which nearly lost us the war, we lost over 30 ships and the war dragged on more than a few months. So this image is quite poignant.

Feb 08 12 09:37 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
MMDesign
Posts: 18,647
Louisville, Kentucky, US


Model Sarah wrote:
Ahh this beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

I'm just so beside myself that photography was this great as far quality, clarity, etc. I'm going to do more research. Any and all examples, information is very welcomed.

Errol Morris tried to determine if Fenton staged the photo by adding canon balls.

http://www.npr.org/2011/09/17/140439961 … hotographs

Feb 08 12 09:37 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Christopher Hartman
Posts: 53,743
Buena Park, California, US


NewBoldPhoto wrote:

Either that or they had some really big horses.

heh...just seems weird to see them lying about like that.  I suspect they have not been fired...so maybe just dumped...

Feb 08 12 09:37 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
MMDesign
Posts: 18,647
Louisville, Kentucky, US


Christopher Hartman wrote:

heh...just seems weird to see them lying about like that.  I suspect they have not been fired...so maybe just dumped...

Yes, read the link above.

Feb 08 12 09:39 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
SillyEddy
Posts: 2,246
Coventry, England, United Kingdom


Low contrast image... They probably used a kit lens or didn't photoshop it quite right. Damn GWCs back then!





Just kidding, that's a really nice photo, made incredible for the time.
Feb 08 12 09:39 am  Link  Quote 
guide forum
Photographer
GPS Studio Services
Posts: 34,433
San Francisco, California, US


All I have to say is that it was good work for the day!
Feb 08 12 09:43 am  Link  Quote 
Model
Model Sarah
Posts: 38,725
Columbus, Ohio, US


Rollo David Snook wrote:

Although this just appears to be a field with some cannonballs, it has a lot of meaning. The British, Turkish and French forces still used cannon balls, but the Russians had new forms of explosives, which nearly lost us the war, we lost over 30 ships and the war dragged on more than a few months. So this image is quite poignant.

Absolutely it does. Agreed.

Feb 08 12 09:44 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
NewBoldPhoto
Posts: 4,894
PORT MURRAY, New Jersey, US


You may, if you haven't already, want to talk to this guy http://www.modelmayhem.com/83821 He's big into old tech- VanDykes and gum powder prints, the whole deal.
Feb 08 12 09:45 am  Link  Quote 
Model
Model Sarah
Posts: 38,725
Columbus, Ohio, US


NewBoldPhoto wrote:
You may, if you haven't already, want to talk to this guy http://www.modelmayhem.com/83821 He's big into old tech- VanDykes and gunpowder prints, the whole deal.

Thanks so much! I'll send him a note. I love working with people who are into those older processes. I worked with Marcus Ranum, Mark Sink and his fiance with wet plates a couple of years ago and it started a whole new thing for me beyond my medium format/35mm film. The process is just amazing and so very creative.

Feb 08 12 09:48 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Photographe
Posts: 2,350
Bristol, England, United Kingdom


MMDesign wrote:
Errol Morris tried to determine if Fenton staged the photo by adding canon balls.

http://www.npr.org/2011/09/17/140439961 … hotographs

I see his point totally, it's very valid, especially in war photography, a lot was staged as we know.

It is intriguing, this was titled "Valley of the Shadow of Death", which was the area charged disastrously by Lord Cardigan's light brigade. The thing being, it appears not to be the valley of the shadow of death at all. But then... remember these balls weigh 12 lbs at least. Staging it would have been unlikely perhaps, with the British licking their wounds following the charge, fighting huge cholera, dysentry and frostbite attacks, I doubt Raglan would have spared the men or the balls, supplies were a major issue in the Crimean war. Also if he took this in 1855, then it is definitely staged, the Valley of the Shadow of Death was in 1854. Hmm I suppose the balls could have been left there for a year, if they are enemy ammunition, but still, either the date is probably wrong or the exact location is false. The Valley of the Shadow of death wasn't a sunken lane, it was a large area, enough to accomodate 650 lancers and hussars charging 5000 Russians, and it was surrounded by 3 hills.

Feb 08 12 09:54 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
NewBoldPhoto
Posts: 4,894
PORT MURRAY, New Jersey, US


Model Sarah wrote:

Thanks so much! I'll send him a note. I love working with people who are into those older processes. I worked with Marcus Ranum, Mark Sink and his fiance with wet plates a couple of years ago and it started a whole new thing for me beyond my medium format/35mm film. The process is just amazing and so very creative.

It was seeing my first large format platinum contact print that did it for me. I've been trying to get even a crude imitation out of PS ever since- wish I could afford the real thing.

Feb 08 12 09:54 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
MMDesign
Posts: 18,647
Louisville, Kentucky, US


Rollo David Snook wrote:

I see his point totally, it's very valid, especially in war photography, a lot was staged as we know.

It is intriguing, this was titled "Valley of the Shadow of Death", which was the area charged disastrously by Lord Cardigan's light brigade. The thing being, it appears not to be the valley of the shadow of death at all. But then... remember these balls weigh 12 lbs at least. Staging it would have been unlikely perhaps, with the British licking their wounds following the charge, fighting huge cholera, dysentry and frostbite attacks, I doubt Raglan would have spared the men or the balls, supplies were a major issue in the Crimean war. Also if he took this in 1855, then it is definitely staged, the Valley of the Shadow of Death was in 1854. Hmm I suppose the balls could have been left there for a year, if they are enemy ammunition, but still, either the date is probably wrong or the exact location is false. The Valley of the Shadow of death wasn't a sunken lane, it was a large area, enough to accomodate 650 lancers and hussars charging 5000 Russians, and it was surrounded by 3 hills.

I don't think anyone ever went back and cleaned up the canon balls. I think the belief is that he added to what he found there.

Feb 08 12 10:01 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Photographe
Posts: 2,350
Bristol, England, United Kingdom


Ah that makes sense, some are embeded and some aren't. And there's rather a lot of cannon balls in one particular line of fire.

Ground looks dangerous enough to gallop on, but with those balls flying at you...
Feb 08 12 10:03 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
MMDesign
Posts: 18,647
Louisville, Kentucky, US


Rollo David Snook wrote:
Ah that makes sense, some are embeded and some aren't. And there's rather a lot of cannon balls in one particular line of fire.

Here's the start of the entire piece. It's rather long.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/20 … -part-one/

Feb 08 12 10:04 am  Link  Quote 
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