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Marking time

Marking time on prints

Sunday 8 June 2014

John Smeaton’s birthday

Let us take note that John Smeaton, the English civil engineer, was born in Leeds on this day 290 years ago.

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Thursday 29 May 2014

Gongs for Thom and Dick

I am delighted that two old friends were recognised in the 2014 Queensland Memory Awards last night.

Thom Blake, historian, was awarded the John Oxley Library Fellowship​—​a 12 month res­i­dency to further his research on the Great Arte­sian Basin. A great choice. I have been to a few arte­sian bores with Thom and know how keen he is, so I’m looking forward to the results.

Richard Stringer, photographer, received the John Oxley Library Award … for his work in documenting Queensland’s landscape and architecture over the past 40 years.

I’ve followed Richard’s work since 1967 or 1968​—​I don’t recall which year, but I do remember that first exhibition in an upstairs gallery in central Brisbane. I was a high-school student interested in photography and Richard was an architect branching out into photography. He showed black and white prints of buildings and architectural features. I remember the graphic treatment of the subjects, with bold shadows, lines and textures accentuated by darkroom manipulations​—​high contrast, solarisation, bas-relief.

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Monday 16 December 2013

The keeper’s Christmas dinner

I have sent out my email Christmas card for 2013, the third in a series illustrated with a wood engraving. Again, it’s a sentimental subject involving Christmas, a rowing boat, a lighthouse, and a lighthouse keeper.

This one is from the American magazine Harper’s Weekly, but the tone of the picture is similar to ones from the Illustrated London News I used in 2012 and 2011.

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Wednesday 24 April 2013

More about the woodburytype

To add to my terse mention of the woodburytype the other day, I bring you a paragraph of text, and a video.

The paragraph is from Richard Benson’s book The printed pic­ture [New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2008]:

The woodburytype plate was hard to make, but once done it could generate a lot of inexpensive prints. They curled ter­ribly and the borders were always a mess, from the excess gelatin squeezing out, so they were always mounted. The wood­bury­type used no silver, which saved money, and it could produce mono­chro­mat­ic prints in any color, ac­cord­ing to the pigment used. The prints were also never wet, so all the com­plex handling of wet paper was avoided. Most of them were colored to imitate albumen prints, so the viewers believed they were seeing a “real” photograph. The tech­nol­o­gy didn’t allow prints much bigger than eight by ten in­ches [20 x 25 cm], but these beautiful little prints never had to go into a hypo bath so they are remarkably permanent.

This video from George Eastman House shows the wood­bury­type printing process in action:

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Tuesday 19 March 2013

Olga Nethersole woodburytype zoomified

Let me decode that headline:

Olga Nethersole (1867-1951) was an actress and a celebrity in England and America. She is a perfect subject to demonstrate the woodburytype.

Woodburytype was a process for printing high quality black and white photographs, used from the late 1860s until about 1900. This Woodburytype print of Olga makes a fine test for zoomify

Zoomify is software for zooming and panning website images.

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Monday 21 January 2013

Port Said lighthouse

Another one for the bucket list: I must have seen it as I passed through the Suez Canal (twice, in 1965 and 1966), but I don’t remember it. It marks the northern entrance to the canal.

It was the world’s first concrete lighthouse tower, and was de­signed by François Coignet and completed in 1869​—​the first Aus­tralian example of this type was Green Cape lighthouse (first lit in 1883).

The Port Said lighthouse was among the first to be lit by elec­tric­ity, using a carbon arc powered by de Meritens dynamos​—​the first (and only) use of this system in Australia was at the second Macquarie lighthouse (first lit in 1888).

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Wednesday 15 August 2012

Henry Winstanley’s great lighthouse engraving

I have a few nice old prints of lighthouses, but none as wonderful as the one I just acquired. It’s from a copper plate engraved by Henry Winstanley (1644-1703)​—​an English engraver, mer­chant, and entrepreneur.

The engraving shows the lighthouse Winstanley built, with very great difficulty, on the Eddystone Rocks near Plymouth. The work started in 1696, and the lighthouse was finished and lit in 1698. Winstanley was not satisfied​—​he enlarged and streng­thened the structure in 1899, and my engraving shows it in this improved form. The picture is surrounded by notes that set out the history of the project, and the intricate details of the design.

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Wednesday 11 July 2012

The new yacht ‘Galatea’

On this day in 1868 The Illustrated London News ran a picture of the Galatea, the lighthouse yacht I have already mentioned. The launching of such a vessel, associated with such a noble purpose (and such noble personages), was a typical subject for celebration in the popular illustrated press in the nineteenth century.

The Illustrated London News was the first illustrated weekly newspaper (founded 1842). It was followed in England by The Graphic (1869), in America by Harper’s Magazine (1850), and in Australia by the Australasian Sketcher (Melbourne, 1873). At their best, these mass-circulation illustrated papers brought high quality illustrations of current events into the homes of middle class people.

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Wednesday 23 November 2011

Town gas

Gentle reader, if you know where this photograph was taken, please send me a message. The picture shows a small town gas­works, newly built or under construction. In front of the camera is the gas holder with five blokes sitting or standing on the empty vessel. Behind on the left is a shed (for storing feed stock?) and in the centre a brick building (the retort house?). No chimneys are visible (odd?). The style of the photographic print sug­gests a date in the 1870s, ’80s or ’90s. The name of the photographer sug­gests the place shown may be one of the 61 former gasworks sites in New South Wales. Any ideas?

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Saturday 30 April 2011

Bunya bookplate

Our household recently had a short holiday at the Bunya Mountains. Our friends Susan and Rex Addison spent a few days with us there. We did the usual things: walking, cooking, eating, reading.

And we discussed a design brief for a weekend retreat. Margie and I have been going to the Bunya Mountains for years, and have stayed in various rented houses and cabins. We always enjoy ourselves, but we find the rental houses deficient. For one thing, they never seem to be equipped with the sorts of books that are needed during a week at the Bunyas.

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Thursday 16 September 2010

Uses for a mobile phone

In my little box of 19th century prints is a steel engraving of a drawing by Thomas Allom of the interior of the Panthéon in Paris. It’s not especially rare or valuable, but I like it for the quality of the print and the connection with my former archi­tec­tural partner Richard Allom (distantly related to Thomas).

I wanted to ‘re-photograph’ the scene that Thomas Allom drew, so I needed a copy for reference. A google search turned up a print-dealer’s online catalog with an image of the Panthéon print, which I copied to my phone. With this in my hand, I found the right spot to stand. I can vouch for the general accuracy of the drawing, with a proviso. I think it is based on a properly set-up perspective drawing, but using a point of view outside the building​—​impossible, in other words, because this view is blocked by the front wall of the building.

With my widest lens (Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L on EOS 5D), and with my back against the wall, I could not get all the parts of the ceiling that Allom showed into the picture. Not, that is, unless I tipped the camera up and caused the columns to topple, and that would never do.

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Monday 15 June 2009

Hokusai sawyers

Found on Wikipedia Commons, this beautiful woodcut of Japanese sawyers cutting some heroic planks. Neither of the sawyers, nor the saw doctor, have time to enjoy the view of Mount Fuji, but their lady companions might. I recommend following the link to the high resolution version.

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Wednesday 14 May 2008

Another Daniel Marquis photo

I have just acquired another carte-de-visite photo from the studio of Daniel Marquis. It’s a scruffy specimen but I am glad to have it. I’ve added it to my online museum. On the back is some writing in a language-other-than-English. Would anybody care to identify the language, and tell me what it says, please?

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Wednesday 30 May 2007

Navigating the Bosphorus

While I am at work surveying historic lighthouses in Australia my client for this project, AMS, is at work installing the latest navigation aids in Turkey.

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Monday 30 April 2007

John Smeaton

Another month, another placeholder. I’m still busy inspecting lighthouses, and collecting useful knowledge about them.

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Friday 30 March 2007

Business offshore

I’m busy with the lighthouse inspections, so I won’t be writing anything original here for a while. Let this engraving mark the time I am spending offshore. Islands have such evocative names: Who would not want to go to South Solitary Island, or Booby Island, or Low Isle, or Cliffy Island?

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Friday 26 January 2007

Running the numbers

Chris Jordan’s Running the numbers: an American self-portrait is a series of photographs that looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Here are images that give scale to the numbers.

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Saturday 30 December 2006

Lighthouse welcome

Just found in the National Library picture collection: a stereo photo of a welcome arch built in Hobart for the 1901 visit of the Duke and Duchess of York. This little object tickles my interest in stereo views, lighthouses, and celebratory arches.

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Monday 19 December 2005

The Stock Route

As a small contribution to Alan Griffiths’ work of building a comprehensive website about photography, here is a photograph from my collection.

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Sunday 4 September 2005

Father’s day ponderings

My treat this morning: breakfast, then reading in bed — Henry Petroski’s The book on the bookshelf. He has a chapter about the development of private studies and how books were stored in them. His mention of pictures of Saint Jerome in his study sent me off to the big book of Albrecht Dürer.

Jerome (AD331-420), patron saint of librarians, was a frequent subject for Dürer. I’ve chosen an early woodcut from the year 1492 for dissection below. It does not have the brilliant perspective of his 1514 copper engraving, nor the wonderful human detail of his 1521 panel painting, but it has something else: a bed.

Jerome, who translated the bible into ordinary Latin, appears in the woodcut sitting at work in his study, which is smartly equipped in the style of the 1490s. As someone who spends much of his working time in a study, I am struck by similarities with my own setup.

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Monday 10 May 2004

Engravings on wood

At a second-hand bookshop in Whangarei I bought a copy of E Mervyn Taylor’s Engravings on wood (Wellington: Mermaid Press, 1957). This book displays a body of work influenced by the natural environment of New Zealand, and embedded in the European tradition of printing from engraved end-grain wood blocks. The native birds, plants (like the toi toi), landscapes and people of New Zealand were his subjects, and he engraved them with freshness.

I had not heard of him before, but this says more about my poor knowledge of New Zealand’s cultural history than it does about the artist. I know now that Mervyn Taylor (1906-1964) was a well-known and well-regarded artist.

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Tuesday 11 November 2003

Over the top

For Remembrance Day, a reminder that arguments about the authenticity of the photographic record are not new.

Frank Hurley, in France with the Australian troops in 1917, wrote about the problems of recording what was going on around him:

I have tried, and tried again, to include events on a single negative but the results have been hopeless. Everything is on such a wide scale … Figures scattered, atmosphere dense with haze and smoke — shells that simply would not burst when required. All the elements of a picture were there, could they but be brought together and condensed. The battle is in full swing, the men are going over the top — I snap. A fleet of bombing planes is flying low, there is a barrage bursting all round. But on developing my plates there is disappointment. All I find is a record of a few figures advancing from the trenches and a background of haze.
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Tuesday 17 December 2002

Monday Nightingales

On Monday nights I meet friends in a Sunday-school room and sing — for pleasure and refreshment. We don’t aspire to excellence (which, for me, is just as well).

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Wednesday 28 August 2002

Gyotaku

The walls of my office are hung with prints, mostly black and white. When I look up from my work I see woodcuts and wood engravings, lino cuts, copper and steel engravings, an etching, a lithograph, a silk screen print.

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Monday 6 May 2002

Digital darkroom

Yesterday I made my first digital quad-tone prints, a milestone on my way from darkroom to desktop photographic print making. All sorts of new technologies make this possible, and the internet sews it all together: Through the net I found out about film scanners, Photoshop, monitor calibration, printer profiling and inkjet printers. I bought the printer at auction, and shopped on-line for the continuous ink system, the inks and paper. I joined in discussions, and sought information about tech­ni­cal­i­ties and aesthetics.

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Search marquis-kyle.com.au

On this page
John Smeaton’s birthday
Gongs for Thom and Dick
The keeper's Christmas dinner
More about the woodburytype
Olga Nethersole woodburytype zoomified
Port Said lighthouse
Henry Winstanley's great lighthouse engraving
The new yacht 'Galatea'
Town gas
Bunya bookplate
Uses for a mobile phone
Hokusai sawyers
Another Daniel Marquis photo
Navigating the Bosphorus
John Smeaton
Business offshore
Running the numbers
Lighthouse welcome
The Stock Route
Father's day ponderings
Engravings on wood
Over the top
Monday Nightingales
Gyotaku
Digital darkroom

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