I thought I would try to find photos as back as far as I could go of my family, up to and including myself when we were around 21 years old.
I got stuck in 1908 for an accurate age, but so far I am back to about 1880 with four photos.
Amelia Sainty 1835-1939
Grace Florence Peckham 1889-1971
Pamela Annette Mawn born 1922
Anthony Clifford Tidswell born 1945
I know the dates of the photos for my mother and myself – my Grandmother is definitely no later than 1915 and my Great Grandmother is a guess from the type of print and the technique of printing, it was a half plate contact print from a studio, so likely to be a wet plate process – my best guess for the dates of the photos is….
Amelia, my Great Grandmother (photo circa 1865-1885) (born 1843 died 1939
Grace, my Grandmother (photo circa 1905-1910) (born 1889 died 1972)
Pamela, my Mother (photo 1940) (born 1922)
Me (photo 1966) (born 1945)
OK so Amelia was older than 21 in the photo and my mother was only 19, but they are now forever 21.
To dream about following in the footsteps of an anonymous Japanese photographer who printed an album of his local photos in the 19th century and to retake them with a camera of the same period, with a similar lens and using 19th century collodion photography techniques to make the print is what dreams (my dreams) are made of – but by toying with this idea, from an old album I found in a junk shop, I am discovering some interesting (for me) stuff.
Here are a couple of photos, the hand coloured one is from my album and I just took a quick snap to copy it. The other is from a collection in the Harvard library, it is by (probably) the most famous photographer of that time and place, Felice Beato.
Hand colored collodion print – Japan, c1890, from album of 50 photos – 20
Two more are shown below…
The Tokaido road, Japan circa 1890 – Hand colored collodion print , from album of 50 photos – 18
They are not both taken at exactly the same time, but they seem to be within a few weeks of each other, this dates them, according to Harvard, at around 1867 and the Beato photos used a longer lens, but from a quick look it seems the images from my album are older and more of the 25 original prints that I have are of the same subjects from the same place and the same period.
So who copied who and when? Did Beato copy another photographer from Yokohama? Or did a local photographer from Yokohama show Beato the best places?
Good photographers will often find a very similar setting for a landscape – I have collodion prints from the 1860s of Mirror Lake, that Ansel Adams would have seen and he took exactly the same image from exactly the same place nearly 80 years later (some trees are taller in Adams photos of course).
I couldn’t think of a better title for a very pretty half plate camera. Made in 1905 it is the lightest large format camera I own
I Dream of taking this camera to Japan to retake the images in an old album I found. I have posted the pages of the album, all half plate collodion hand coloured prints in the two previous blog posts A Calm Tension of Light and The Tokaido Road
I can dream.