Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Having Your Likeness Made

Clarence Newcomb was my great grandfather
and he was a photographer!
He was born just after the Civil War so
he started photography in the later 1800's.

Unfortunately, my great grand father
died early of Typhoid Fever in 1899.
Thus his photographic career was cut short also.

Knowing this part of my family history 
has made me keenly interested in the 
Victorian era photographic process.

I was recently able to watch the process 
at a local Civil War Re enactment.

Here is the photographer. 
He is from Gettysburg, PA.

And here is his camera.
Notice the lens cover on the front.
He uncovers then recovers the lens 
to control the exposure 
which he times on his watch.

Both he, 
and the photographers of the time
had portable dark rooms.

I was asking his son other questions
at this time and didn't ask exactly what was going on now.

The soldier was standing here for a while 
during which time the photographer 
was getting things in order.

He and his predecessors 
used stands to help the subject hold still 
during the exposure time.

Here is an angled shot where you can see the stand.

I spoke to this re enactor for a while.
He is Bob from the
PA 69th Irish Volunteer Infantry re enactors.
I have posted about them before
since they are local to where I live
and have seen them at several of their events.

Here is the same photo with a vintage effect
and the head brace removed.

That was easy...
but if I had taken this during the war
 it would not have been so easy.

I would have had to take the wet plate
into my dark room.
After which it would soak in a solution creating
a negative image.

Next it would soak again in a new solution,
this time creating a positive image.

Finally it would go into a dryer
and then be lacquered.

I would LOVE to learn how to do this process!

My great, great grandfather James M. Welch
served in the Civil War and I have transcribed
the letters he wrote home.
In one letter he mentioned having had his 'likeness' made.
He had his photo taken!


Anonymous said...

Fascinating story, it's wonderful that you have letters and pictures. Genealogy is a lot of fun!

Heather said...

Wow, Rebecca! Great post. I didn't realize that they used equipment to keep people still while shooting. Can you imagine?! And the time that it all took, certainly not the snap of a button like we have now....and still, I get frustrated with my people for not sitting still :)

Kathy said...

Rebecca, this is remarkable. I appreciate the time you spent in putting this together.

jabblog said...

Holding a pose for a long time must have been very difficult. No wonder so many photographs show rather unsmiling subjects!

DawnTreader said...

I've never seen a stand like that to help keep people in position! Interesting. Maybe you'd be interested in a (Swedish) film I wrote about back in January: Everlasting Moments (link goes to my blog post)

EG CameraGirl said...

Photography is so much easier now!