Marking time on photography
Introducing Daniel Marquis
I have been plugging away, investigating my great-great-grand-uncle Daniel who came to Brisbane in the 1860s. I have started work on a website—Daniel Marquis: a Scottish photographer in colonial Queensland—but it’s not quite ready to be seen.
For that website I have written this short account of Daniel Marquis. It corrects some furphies you might read in Wikipedia.
The account is based on reliable historical documents; information about those documents will appear in footnotes at the bottom of your screen when you put your mouse cursor on the asterisks in the text.*See, like this.
Daniel Marquis, boat person
Most Australians are boat people, or descended from boat people, which ought to make us more sympathetic to asylum-seakers than we seem to be. To understand this business better I have started to search for my own immigrant forebears. I want to know who they were, how they got here and what they did.
I know a little about my 2nd-great-grand-uncle Daniel Marquis. He emigrated from Scotland with his wife Grace and their children Isabella, John and James. They sailed from London on the clipper Flying Cloud and arrived in Brisbane in 1865. I’ve recently collected a carte-de-visite picture of that famous ship—it’s a nice reminder of Daniel’s situation as a boat person, given his occupation as a carte-de-visite photographer in both Scotland and Australia.
How to rectify and perpetuate your recollections
Since the 1960s I have carried a camera when I travel, and taken pictures so I can examine them afterwards. I know that most travellers use phone cameras for this now. I carry a phone too, but don’t like using it as a camera. So I keep on schlepping a serious camera (and even a tripod) on my trips. These tools help me to take photographs in a more observant way. Yes, I’m out-of-date, I know.
For something even more out-of-date, I enjoyed reading an article entitled ‘Notes for travelers in Europe’ that appeared in Harper’s new monthly magazine, volume xxxix, June to November 1869. Let me quote some of it:
Many persons regret, as they draw near the close of their tour, that they have not preserved more mementoes of the scenes through which they have passed. This is often the case with those who travel rapidly, and find their impressions becoming confused and inexact. Photographs of the places seen rectify and perpetuate our recollections; and one could not have a more valuable souvenir of a glimpse of Europe than a portfolio of large photographs. The traveler can supply this, in some degree at least, in Paris or New York, on his return; but half the value of the picture is dependent on the recollection that you bought it on the spot, or picked it out as the best, from among Allessandri’s or Macpherson’s treasures at Rome, or Carlo Ponti’s under the arcades in Venice. Large photographs can be conveniently bought unmounted. They can then be rolled, and a large number can be carried in a small space; and at home any good photographic artist can mount them at a trifling expense.
Another month of Instagram
Another month on the road, another batch of Instagram pictures. This month I have continued travelling—in Italy, Scotland, Italy again, then in Austria. I have kept posting fresh daily photos to Instagram. The pictures are laid out below.
A month of Instagram
I don’t like being the target of surveillance by Mark Zuckerberg and his gang. I wouldn’t want to add up the time I have spent on Instagram. I resent the advertising that gets more intrusive with each update. At times I feel like chucking it in.
But, I do get a buzz from editing each image, composing a caption and hashtags, uploading the piece for my few followers, and watching their response. And so I keep doing it.
There is nothing insta about Instagram the way I use it. I select each image from my photo archive after it has had time to ripen and mature, perhaps for a month, or a year, or longer. These are pictures taken with a camera, not a phone. I edit each picture in Lightroom and upload it via the LR/Instagram plug-in.
I make it a rule to make just one post per day (I unfollow people who post too much).
I have spent the month of April travelling in Africa and Europe. For a change, I have been posting photos while they are still fresh—some on the day I took them, the rest a day or so later. Between 5 April and 30 April I posted the 25 travelling pictures shown below.
A lantern slide of the Old Museum Building
I have recently acquired five nineteenth-century lantern slides of Queensland subjects published by the Scottish firm of George Washington Wilson and Co Ltd.
My favourite is this one, of the Exhibition Buildings in Brisbane. It is the earliest good-quality photograph of the building I know of. I have just started work on updating the conservation management plan for this building, so getting this photo is a treat.
When I go out to do serious work recording historic places I carry a pile of camera gear—a solid tripod, a couple of camera bodies, a range of lenses, various accessories.
But when I travel for pleasure I take less—usually one camera body (Canon 5D series) and two lenses (17-40mm and 85mm). These fit nicely in a ThinkTank Speed Demon bag strapped around my hips. The bag looks a bit nerdy, but it does the job and is comfortable enough for an all-day walk.
Just now I have replaced the 17-40mm f/4L USM (my most-used lens, but an old design from 2003) with the 16-35mm f/4L IS USM (a better-performing design from 2014). Some quick tests have shown an improvement in off-centre sharpness, not to mention the image stabilisation that promises to be capable of reducing blur that results from normal, minute shaking of a lens due to hand-held shooting.
Mike Johnston, who writes the Online photographer blog, has asked his readers to send in pictures of their favourite cameras. I expect to see gorgeous photographs of shiny chrome and dazzling glass. Camera porn.
Since I bought my first camera at the age of ten I have owned about two dozen cameras of various brands—Bolex, Cambo, Canon, Graphic, Kodak, Linhof, Olympus, Pentax. Every one of those cameras was a careful choice, and I liked every one of them. Too many favourites.
So I have chosen to send Mike a photo in which the camera is incidental, a minor detail. I had a long and productive partnership with that camera but it’s the story that matters, not the object.
George Verney turns professional
My search for knowledge about my great-great-grand-uncle Daniel Marquis has boosted my interest in the other photographers who were at work in Brisbane in the 1860s and ’70s.
Daniel Marquis set up his photographic studio in Brisbane towards the end of 1865, in George Street, opposite St John’s Pro-Cathedral. He was already a competent operator, with ten years’ experience in Scotland, and he found a ready market for his work in Brisbane. By 1868 he was advertising his position as photographer by appointment to His Excellency Colonel Blackall, the Governor of Queensland. A vice-regal appointment was a mark of competence and respectability.
Governor Blackall lived in Government House at the smarter end of George Street, several blocks southeast from Daniel’s studio, past the upmarket Harris Terrace, the Bellevue Hotel, the Botanical Gardens and the Houses of Parliament.
Blackall’s aide-de-camp was an army officer, Lieutenant George Verney—an amateur photographer. Photography in the wet-plate era was technically difficult, expensive, and mostly the province of professionals.
As an amateur Verney photographed Government House, its residents and visitors. Some of his photographs have survived in an album, now in the National Library of Australia, that give an intimate and personal picture of life in the house. He and Daniel Marquis must have known one another, and I like to imagine them discussing the art and craft of photography.
Governor Blackall stood on the top rung of the social ladder in colonial Queensland. The rank of the principal members of his staff, including George Verney, was elevated by their connection with the person and functions of the governor.
A sad end for Bourne & Shepherd
One of the longest-running photographic studios in the world has come to an end. The business began in 1840 when a studio was established in Kolkata (or Calcutta, as the British called it then). It grew into the most successful commercial photographic firm in India, called Bourne & Shepherd from 1866 until its closure the other day.
At its peak the business had studios in Shimla (Simla), Kolkata (Calcutta) and Mumbai (Bombay), and did tremendous business in studio portraiture, views of places, and records of social and political events. It passed through a long series of owners before its sale to the last one, Jayant Gandhi.
In 1991 a fire in the building the studio had occupied in Kolkata since the nineteenth century destroyed a large part of the valuable archive of negatives—a huge setback for the business. Mr Gandhi was able to keep going by doing film processing and printing but, with the move to digital photography and online display of images, that business has shrunk and the aging owner cannot continue. So Bourne & Shepherd, Artists & Photographers has closed.
Christopher Hume Moore, photographer
Back in the year two thousand and two, when I started to take a more serious interest in the few old photographs I owned, I uploaded a web gallery of cartes-de-visite by Queensland photographers. By early 2003 there were 18 photographs on display there, representing the work of ten studios.
Recalling the view across St Mark’s Square
I’ve been reading Carrying off the palaces: John Ruskin’s lost Daguerreotypes, a book by Ken and Jenny Jacobson about Ruskin’s use of photography for observing and analysing the architecture of Venice.
The book reveals the deep scholarship the Jacobsons have applied to a box of 188 Daguerreotypes they bought at an auction sale in 2006. This box contained a significant set of photographs collected, commissioned or taken by John Ruskin in the 1840s and ’50s. I’m making slow and pleasant progress through the text, the photographs, and the copious footnotes.
Benjamin Disraeli, flipped
I have often admired some portrait photographs of Benjamin Disraeli, the British politician, wearing a natty velvet jacket. The pictures were taken in 1868 by William and Daniel Downey and published in various formats and by various processes.
I was pleased to add one of these to my collection. It’s a fine Woodburytype carte-de-visite, published by John Murdoch with proper acknowledgement of, and probably payment to, the original photographers. I mention these niceties because pirate copying of celebrity portraits was rife in the Victorian period.
I’m the kind of guy who uses a controlled vocabulary to keyword his photos. This means that I use consistent words to describe things. Am I sadly obsessive? Maybe, but there are benefits.
There are about 75,000 images in my Lightroom catalog—some scanned, some born digital. I have assigned keywords and other useful metadata to almost all of them. For keywords I use the Getty Research Institute’s excellent Art & Architecture Thesaurus, the Australian Pictorial Thesaurus, and my own controlled lists of terms for projects, places, people, and specialised subjects.
Doing wet plate photography
To go with the exhibition The view from here the Museum of Brisbane put on a one-day workshop on the wet-plate (collodion) photographic process last Saturday. The workshop was taught by photographer Craig Tuffin and organised by Hilary Perrett from the museum. It was limited to three participants and I was one of them. The other two were photography students at the Queensland College of Art where the workshop was held. There we had the use of well-equipped and well-ventilated darkrooms.
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.
Getty Images: free at last?
For years, Getty Images has tried to stop web publishers using images from its library of pictures unless they pay money to Getty. The company has tracked down pirates and chased them through the courts to recover licence fees. But, in a sudden reversal, the company has announced a new scheme. Bloggers and other non-commercial users can use images on their websites at no charge—as long as the images remain on Getty’s servers and are displayed using Getty’s code.
I know there’s no such thing as a free lunch. When I first heard about it, I didn’t see why Getty Images would do this. But now I do—thanks to Peter Krogh who has explained how this could be part of a cunning plan.
With that new understanding, and just as an experiment, I am happy to try it out. So here is a picture of a lighthouse, courtesy of Getty Images.
An atlas of photographic processes
The Getty Conservation Institute has released a terrific resource for collectors and custodians of historic photographs.
The Atlas of Analytical Signatures of Photographic Processes is intended for practicing photograph conservators, curators, art historians, archivists, library professionals, and anyone responsible for the care of photograph collections. Its purpose is to aid in the formulation of analytical questions related to a particular photograph and to assist scientists unfamiliar with analysis of photographs when interpreting analytical data. The Atlas contains interpretation guides with identification of overlaps of spectral peaks and warnings of potential misidentification or misinterpretation of analytical results.
It’s published as a set of free pdf documents—an Introduction, plus separate chapters on the Albumen, Carbon, Collodion on paper, Collotype, Cyanotype, Halftone, Photogravure, Platinotype, Salt print, Silver gelatin, and Woodburytype processes—with the promise of more to come. Each of these chapters has an historical account of the development and use of the process, and a guide to identifying photographs made by that process. The identification methods include looking at the print with the naked eye (which I can do), low-magnification microscopy (which I can manage, sort of, with hand lens and scanning), and using XRF and ATR-FTIR spectometry (not possible for me, but interesting to read about).
Esoteric London: the book
Every morning, over a nice cup of tea, I check the Esoteric London blog and enjoy another quirky juxtaposition of a new photograph and a bit of old text. It’s a pleasure, and sometimes a hazardous distraction.
Roger Dean, the photographer and blogger, has been working on a self-published book which is now, at last, almost ready to print. This is not some quickie print-on-demand number, but a proper book (with belly band). Roger has just launched a Kickstarter project to get the job onto the press. I’ve pledged my support!
To go with the carte-de-visite of the SS Denmark with its cabin plan on the back, I have acquired another—showing the SS Hibernian. Perhaps this is the start of a collection.
The purser of the steam yacht ‘Merrie England’
Since Papua New Guinea is in the news, I’ll mention a cabinet photograph I recently bought from a dealer in England. It’s a portrait of a handsome young man wearing a naval officer’s cap and coat. It suggested a few lines of inquiry.
A severe blow
A while ago in Dunedin I visited the Otago Settlers Museum, an institution founded in 1898, the 50th anniversary of the first Scottish settlement of Otago. In the beginning the museum focused on the earliest European arrivals—from 1848 until 1861 when the gold rush started. The focus gradually widened to acknowledge more recent arrivals and, eventually, the Māori people who had been there all along. In 2012 the museum was renamed Toitū Otago Settlers Museum. Toitū is the Māori name of a stream that once flowed near the site, and the word carries other connotations, as the museum website explains.
In the museum is an ‘early colonists’ gallery, purpose-built in the early 1900s. In this large square room, lit by lantern windows at the top of the hipped ceiling, there are hundreds of framed photographs stacked six rows high. It’s very impressive, and gives the impression that anybody who can’t point to an ancestor on the wall is a newcomer.
Advice to doorknocking politicians
Social media, 19th century style: This article in the South Australian Weekly Chronicle for 16 July 1859 shows that using the latest technology for electioneering is no new thing.
TO MEMBERS ABOUT TO VISIT THEIR CONSTITUENTS.»more»
A member can pay a visit now to his constituents either in person or in the more elegant form of a visiting card, that not merely contains his electioneering address, but also his name and physiognomy in full. This is a new feature, that has never yet been put on the canvass of an election. For instance, we are informed by an advertisement that—
“Messrs. A. Marion & Co. think it will be of great advantage to candidates who cannot possibly wait personally upon all their constituents to use their Photographic Visiting Cards, which will prove a great saving of both time and trouble in canvassing. They will also afford the electors an opportunity of having a correct portrait of the hon. gentleman seeking their suffrages.”
In this way are likenesses brought home to every man’s door. What a boon, too, conferred on those delinquent M.P.s, who, conscious of having voted wrong, hav’nt the courage to face their constituents in any other form than that of photography. If they are not gifted with the call of eloquence, such a visit saves them an infinity of stuttering and stammering ; and yet, the little they so say is spoken strictly by the card, and must go home, if left at the right house. The boon would be further increased if Messrs. Marion would take off the entire supporters of Lord Derby, and take them off so effectually, that we should never see them again.
John Deazeley’s backdrop
Here’s an object that tickles my interest in three branches of history—photography, lighthouses, and the region where I live.
It’s a cabinet photograph made in the 1880s by John Deazeley, a photographer with a studio in Queen Street, Brisbane. Queen Street was, and still is, the main commercial street in the city. Three other Brisbane photographers had Queen Street studios then—Thomas Mathewson, Albert Lomer, and Eddie Hutchison.
In September 1868 Princess Alexandra was photographed with her baby daughter Louise riding piggyback. The picture makes the princesses look like ordinary people. Perhaps because of its charming informality this photograph, published as a carte-de-visite, was a best seller. Loyal subjects, in their hundreds of thousands, bought copies to put in their albums. One of these has found its way into my collection.»more»
Ten digital years
I got my first digital camera ten years ago, and since then I have acquired several others. Who am I kidding. The true number is not several, it’s ten. Let me explain…»more»
A well-executed likeness
I just added to my little collection a carte-de-visite portrait of Colonel Samuel Wensley Blackall (1809-1871). Blackall was appointed Governor of Queensland in 1868, and died in office. In the photograph he sits in an arm chair with a sword between his legs and a feather hat on his knee. The setting is plain—there are no drapes, no columns, no furniture apart from the chair. The only decoration is the patterned linoleum on the studio floor.
It’s odd that he was photographed sitting down, rather than standing upright in a formal military pose as I would have expected for a governor’s portrait. Perhaps he was suffering from the illness from which he died. I don’t know what ailment caused his death, but I have read a suggestion it was something he caught in the tropics—he had been governor of colonies in West Africa and the West Indies.»more»
The Byrne family at Cape Moreton
Just because I enjoy looking at this evocative image so much, I am posting this photograph from the Byrne family collection.»more»
Kodak in collapse
The news that Kodak has filed for bankruptcy in the US prompts me to think about this company, which dominated the commercial and technical aspects of photography throughout the twentieth century. Among the many Kodak products I have used, I fondly remember my first two cameras, the Carousel projector, Kodachrome film, the 100 mm Wide Field Ektar lens on my first 4x5 camera, and countless Austral postcards.
In 1888, with the introduction of the first Kodak camera George Eastman changed photography by allowing ordinary people to take photos without needing their own darkroom. The camera was sold loaded with a roll of film that could take 100 pictures. Owners sent the camera back to the Kodak factory for processing, printing and reloading. Hence Kodak’s slogan, “You press the button, we do the rest.”
This was a social transformation as great, in its time, as the introduction of the mobile phone camera.
Millions of carte-de-visite photographs were produced in the second half of the nineteenth century. Almost all of them were studio portraits, but there were also a few topographic subjects like buildings and landscapes. Even rarer were cartes produced as commercial advertisements, and here is an example.
I haven’t shot any Kodachrome for years, but I feel a slight sadness knowing that I’ll never be able to do so again. Kodak stopped selling the film a year ago, and the last Kodachrome lab in the world (Dwayne’s Photo Service, in Kansas) will stop processing the film in the next few days. This marks the end of a long run—since 1935—for a film that was noted for its sharpness, colour fidelity and archival stability.»more»
Mr Rigby’s photographic studio
Why did a nineteenth century photographer in a Yorkshire village call his business the Australian studio?—a question prompted by a carte-de-visite I just bought.»more»
A lucky find: This odd photograph, in an album of Queensland views, in the collection of the State Library of Queensland. The catalogue entry says the album was created by Henry Mobsby, a photographer on the staff of the Department of Agriculture and Stock, perhaps for presentation to James Orr, a senior bureaucrat in the Department.»more»
Daniel Marquis in Scotland
Four more cartes-de-visite have joined my little collection of the work of the photographer Daniel Marquis (1829-1879). These give us a glimpse of the work he did in Scotland, before he emigrated to Australia.»more»
I have just re-discovered this portrait in my little box of cabinet photos. How could you look this stylish fellow in the face and remain anti-macassar?»more»
Carte-de-visite or visiting card?
I have just bought a little photograph on ebay. It’s not from Queensland, so it doesn’t fit my collection, but it took my fancy.
On the front is an albumen print, rather faded, of a pretty Italianate villa, with stone arcades, polychrome brickwork, cast iron filigree cresting, and a conservatory. The house sits in a picturesque garden, with strolling paths and flower beds. I think it’s a copy of a watercolour picture of the scene, not a photograph from life. It looks like the house of somebody who had done well in Melbourne, perhaps as a merchant or a speculator in mining stock.»more»
The other day I went to the State Library of Queensland to see Panoramic Queensland, an exhibition of panoramic photographs from the John Oxley Library collection. This is a fine showing of several dozen panoramas of Brisbane and other Queensland places.»more»
Merry and happy, again
As a sequel to a previous greeting card here is another nineteenth century photographic greeting card from Tasmania. This one is not an ordinary carte-de-visite, but a somewhat larger card measuring 125mm by 82mm. The Loebenstein Company of Vienna produced more than two dozen sizes of cards for mounting photographs. This size was known by the charming name of Elisabeth.»more»
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?»more»
Where is this?
I’m intrigued to know the identity of the Queensland bush township in this old lantern slide.»more»
At last, a Daniel Marquis photograph
I am now the owner of an original carte-de-visite photograph by my distant relative Daniel Marquis, proprietor of a photographic studio in George Street, Brisbane. He established the studio in 1866, not long after arriving from Scotland. He died in 1879.»more»
Roger Fenton in the Crimea: quizzing the evidence
Just published in the New York Times—an article by documentary filmmaker Errol Morris about two photographs taken by Roger Fenton on the same day in April 1855. Both are entitled Valley of the shadow of death and show a road curving through a valley outside of Sebastopol. The landscape in both is littered with cannon balls.»more»
Bernd Becher, 1931-2007
I’m saddened to read that Bernd Becher has died. Bernd, with his wife and photographic partner Hilla, produced a wonderful body of work recording industrial structures. They photographed mineshaft headframes, water towers, blast furnaces, gas holders, grain silos and the like, all in a deadpan monochrome style that stressed the typological consistencies and inconsistencies of their subjects.»more»
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.»more»
Seen at Werribee Open Range Zoo: a reticulated giraffe.»more»
The grand tour: travelling the world with an architect’s eye
In this pleasing and quirky book Harry Seidler lays out a collection of his travel photographs. He has been an ardent traveller, photographer and observer of architecture since he was a student.
My photographer brother, Marcell (1919-1977) gave me simple advice when I started to record architectural sites “Only use Leica cameras and Kodachrome film, which is archival”. I have adhered to this in taking all images in this book, some over 50 years ago.»more»
Forgive me if I seem obsessed with big cameras, but I must point out the website of a gang of loonies who are driving around Spain with a cargo van converted into a big camera.»more»
John Ruskin’s Daguerreotypes?
From an article in the UK Telegraph newspaper yesterday:
A small country firm of auctioneers has been left embarrassed but elated after selling a box of photographs it valued at £80 for £75,000.»more»
Letters from the Crimea
Roger Fenton was the first photographer to take a camera to war, in 1855. The letters he wrote to his family and business associates during this campaign can now be read on the web. Along with the 25 letters there are some introductory essays and a good collection of links.»more»
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.»more»
A postcard from Germany
Jaroslav Poncar, wonderful panoramic photographer of Ladakh and other places, has sent me a pdf postcard. It announces the launch of his new book Himalayas: where gods and man meet. He calls it a supercoffeetablebook. At 34 x 48 cm it would fit on our coffee table, but it’s too big for the book shelves. I want one!»more»
That fine photographer Paul Fusco has recorded the funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq. He has web-published 44 of his pictures, with his voice-over narrative, under the title Bitter fruit.
Fusco is passionate, and thoroughly engaged with his subject. He takes us along on his private and independent quest. He is the antithesis of the embedded reporter. The work is published by Magnum Photos, the agency owned by Fusco and other photographers.
How the other half lived
Fire scars in the desert
I enjoyed the startling calligraphy of these fire scars in the Simpson Desert.
The fire scars were produced in a recent fire, probably within the last year. The image suggests a time sequence of events. Fires first advanced into the view from the lower left—parallel with the major dune trend and dominant wind direction. Then the wind shifted direction by about 90 degrees so that fires advanced across the dunes in a series of frond-like tendrils. Each frond starts at some point on the earlier fire scar, and sharp tips of the fronds show where the fires burned out naturally at the end of the episode. The sharp edges of the fire scars are due to steady but probably weak southwesterly winds—weaker winds reduced sparking of additional fires in adjacent scrub on either side of the main fire pathways. Over time, the scars will become less distinct as vegetation grows back.»more»
The real toy story
The project was conceived in the spring of 2003 during a visit to the United States. As a surprise for my son Jasper, I bought a sack (app. 600) of second hand toys at the local goodwill store and distributed them on every available surface in his room — surprise! The effect was stunning. As we examined the toys closer we made a discovery — every single one was made in China. Jasper observed: “I thought Santa and his helpers made toys!” It was then the idea came to me: what if I was to make an installation and cover an entire wall with toys “made in China” and juxtapose them with portraits of Chinese toy-factory workers?»more»
On The New Yorker website is Adam Gopnik’s short obit. for Richard Avedon. Here is the opening para.:
To know Dick Avedon was to know the sun. He radiated out, early and daily, on a circle of friends and family and colleagues, who drew on his light and warmth for sustenance. When he died, last week, at the age of eighty-one, some light seemed to go out in many lives and around many pleasures. For, though he was incandescent in his presence, he was surprisingly domestic in his enthusiasms; he believed in family as passionately as he believed in art, and could leave an hour-long conversation about Goya’s horrors to talk with the same avidity about how to light a room or roast a leg of lamb.
Richard Avedon, photographer, has died on the job at the age of 81. I have admired his stark black and white portraits since I saw his oversized book Nothing personal (with text by James Baldwin, 1964).»more»
Driving a nail
Thanks to Jeremy for pointing out the New York Times’s obituary for Henri Cartier-Bresson. It contains this quote from the photographer:
My contact sheets may be compared to the way you drive a nail in a plank. First you give several light taps to build up a rhythm and align the nail with the wood. Then, much more quickly, and with as few strokes as possible, you hit the nail forcefully on the head and drive it in.»more»
Henri Cartier-Bresson died today. Magnum Photos, the agency he co-founded in 1947, has published a collection of photos of him.»more»
Packing my camera bag
It’s easy to set out the principle: Not too much, but not too little. Nice aphorism, but what does it mean in practice?
I have no doubt where to start. The newer of my two Canon F-1 bodies, built in April 1977. The F-1 is a climax in the evolution of the mechanical single lens reflex 35mm camera — robust, precise and modular. With a Nikkor 28mm PC (perspective correcting) lens and a gridded viewing screen, this is my first choice for taking pictures of buildings.»more»
Dan Price’s moonlight chronicles
The Morning News has a delightful interview with Dan Price, artist, writer and publisher of The moonlight chronicles.
After working as a photojournalist for 10 years I sold all my cameras and began documenting my own little life instead of everyone else’s. Using a pen and paper I was able to document what I was seeing without a machine between me and the subject. If you draw lots you can become very addicted to that peaceful state of being. It’s definitely my drug of choice!»more»
A parcel from Thailand
Writing about last month’s special place sent me casting the net for the books of Dr Jaroslav Poncar. There is one at the State Library of Queensland (hidden away in the stacks), and another in the Queensland University of Technology Library (at a campus on the other side of town).
Amazon has some of his books, but not the one I found in a Bangkok bookshop.»more»
Charles Cushman photographs
Charles Weever Cushman, amateur photographer and Indiana University alumnus, bequeathed approximately 14,500 Kodachrome color slides to his alma mater. The photographs in this collection bridge a thirty-two year span from 1938 to 1969, during which time he extensively documented the United States as well as other countries.»more»
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.»more»
Harriett Brims, photographer
My congratulations to the Picture Queensland crew at the State Library of Queensland for adding a collection of photographs by Harriett Brims to their digital collection.
The project news page has a short biography and introduction to the photographer’s work, written by Dianne Byrne, with thumbnail links to some of the photographs. If that page has gone by the time you read this, just search* Picture Queensland for “Harriett Brims”.»more»
William Henry Fox Talbot was a philosopher, classicist, Egyptologist, mathematician, philologist, transcriber and translator of Syrian and Chaldean cuneiform texts, physicist, and photographer. The work that he did between 1834 and 1850 established in principle and practice the foundation of modern photography; the basis of the process that is used today. [Fox Talbot Museum].
On 1 November 1851 Talbot wrote to the committee organising the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London:»more»
Paris photographed and rephotographed»more»
The Kodak Brownies
George Eastman’s Kodak company launched the first Brownie camera in 1900. In 1950 Kodak gave free cameras to 500,000 children, to celebrate 50 years of the Brownie line. (And, perhaps, to ensure continued film sales).»more»
Stopping the Kodak Carousel
I have seen this message posted to various internet mailing lists:
Eastman Kodak Company has confirmed plans to discontinue the manufacture and sales of slide projection products and accessories in June of 2004. This early disclosure is being made to key user groups in order to allow time for adoption of a replacement technology or purchase of backup slide projector products.
When the Duke and Duchess of York visited Australia in 1901, the loyal colonists turned on a special welcome. See this little gallery of stereo photographs. Of the six triumphal arches, my favourite is the one made of butter boxes.»more»
Who owns this photograph?
The Columbia Journalism Review carried an exchange of letters between freelance photographer George Zimbel and the New York Times. The paper paid the photographer for a single use of a picture of John and Jacqueline Kennedy. Forty years later the paper offered the print for sale to collectors for US $4,000. Give it back, it’s mine, said the photographer.»more»
A Lewis Hine scandal
The Atlantic Monthly website has an article by Richard B Woodward, Too much of a good thing: photography, forgery, and the Lewis Hine scandal. Here’s the blurb:
The theoretical physicist who ignited the biggest firestorm in the history of the American photography market was simply trying to figure out if his vintage photos were genuine. By the time he learned the answer, two of the country’s best-known photography scholars had come under a cloud of suspicion.»more»
To celebrate the coming winter solstice, here’s an unusual Tasmanian carte-de-visite. Scenic views are not common carte-de-visite subjects, and I don’t remember seeing a CDV Chrismas card before.»more»
Salam Pax (not his real name, surely) writes a weblog from Baghdad. It’s a gripping account of daily life in a city waiting for the onslaught.
In New York thousands of pictures of people in Baghdad have been pasted up in the streets, a prompt to consider the human consequences of attacking Iraq. Join the campaign.»more»
The earth at night
See the earth at night by the light of its cities. The image is a composite of hundreds of pictures made by US Defense Meteorological Satellites.»more»
Hurley at the National Library
The National Library of Australia has digitised its fabulous collection of Frank Hurley negatives and made the images available on the web. Bravo!»more»
Signs of discrimination
The US Library of Congress houses the work created in the 1930s by Farm Security Administration photographers—Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and others. On the library website is a collection of photographs of signs enforcing racial discrimination. From the web page intro:»more»
New year’s resolution
To really understand how the T90 and 300TL interact in all their modes.»more»
Saving black rhinos
I read about the work of the Save the Black Rhino Trust through the aus.photo newsgroup. I followed up, and received some more information:»more»
A collection of cartes-de-visite
Instead of sitting in a rustic chair in the company of birds I have spent a little time scanning Queensland carte-de-visite photographs so you can see them here.»more»
Photography in street and studio
See Street and studio: popular commercial photography in India and Bangladesh, an article from the online journal Intersections: gender, history and culture in the Asian context. It deconstructs the kind of photography that producted one of my own mugshots.
I spent today at a photographic preservation workshop, looking closely at daguerreotypes, tintypes, ambrotypes and other early photographs, and learning how to care for them. Thanks to Lydia Egunnike, conservator at the State Library of Queensland, for an excellent session. My little collection is in for some tender loving care.»more»
Really big cameras
Cold war leftovers
Cold war leftovers is a photographic project by Art Maples:»more»
A small camera
Two months after ordering, it arrived today. With a camera like this I could take daily dog pictures, if I had a dog.»more»
Another Karsh obituary
Today the Ottawa Citizen carried a longish obituary for Karsh of Ottawa. I’ll quote a piece about the Churchill portrait I mentioned yesterday:»more»
No, I am not obsessed with big cameras, but I must mention that Yousuf Karsh died yesterday. He was the man who made that 1941 photograph of Winston Churchill looking like an affronted bulldog (Karsh took away the Prime Minister’s cigar during the session). See this obituary in the New York Times, and many of his portraits on the Eastman Museum website.
More big cameras
When I wrote about Elsa Dorfman and her massive camera, I didn’t know that the Wisner Classic Mfg. Co. (the largest wooden camera maker in the world) can sell you a new 20 x 24 Technical Field Camera.»more»
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.»more»
Elsa on video
Digging around on Elsa Dorfman’s website, I found this page of links to some documentary video files I had missed. They are all terrific, but see the one about the camera first — unless you have a broadband connection, take a coffee break while it downloads (it’s 8.8mb).
Developments at Polaroid
From today’s news: BOSTON (AP) Polaroid Corp. is hoping a sale to a deep-pocketed bank will help it dig out from bankruptcy and revive its famous instant film and camera business. It’s been a little sad to see such a clever company go down.»more»
A new Leica
The Leica company has just announced a new M-series camera. The M7 is a descendent of the M3 of 1954, the first Leica rangefinder camera with a bayonet lens mount. Details are on the Leica website, or see this review by Irwin Puts.»more»
The reptile-skinned camera
In 1929 the Ernst Leitz company of Wetzlar made a small batch of Leica Luxus cameras, gold plated and covered with lizard skin, just for the filthy-rich. The Luxus held its value—Christies in London sold one in 1994 for £39,600.»more»
Making a wet collodion negative
The Getty Museum website has a video of this picture-taking process, invented in 1851. By 1880 it was superseded by mass-produced dry plates.»more»
More manhole covers
German photographer Roland Mühler’s website includes a gallery of fine photographs of street manhole covers. Remember my snapshot of the one in Chandigarh? Roland’s are much nicer (and there are 45 of them).»more»
Look back in Ingres
This piece in the New York Times is about a symposium featuring painter David Hockney and some art history scholars. Hockney reckoned the Old Masters used more lenses, mirrors and other optical aids than had been thought. Not everyone agreed — the debate sounds like fun.»more»
Photo of the day
Scott Heiferman’s almost wordless weblog.
I like these evocative photographs of India by Mark Tucker. They remind me of some of my own travelling pictures from 1972. No, I don’t claim to be in the same league.