61. July 28, 1868: Another phase of creative photography is the challenge of rescuing and preserving old prints and negatives made by other photographers. A lot of people ask why I devote so much time to it. I get a great deal of satisfaction in taking an obscure snapshot or faded print and bringing out an image that is clearer and more detailed than the original. Sometimes we're lucky enough to find an original glass plate negative. Even when it's broken or cracked, I can usually work with it. This one was cracked, but the emulsion was still intact. By fitting it snugly together on the contact printer, I could make a print that barely shows the break. MSA SC 1477-5938

 

62. 1905 circa: Few photographers today can cope with old negatives, but my early experience working with glass plates everyday taught me the corrections necessary to make fine prints. This orthochromatic emulsion by C. D. Young of Boonsboro, for example, is very subject to halation, therefore rendering the sky greatly overexposed. To make a fully corrected print requires five times the exposure in the sky than the subjects in the foreground need. Because this was a 5x7 plate, I was able to work in the enlarger rather than on a contact printer. MSA SC 1477-5356

 

63. 1905 circa: This is a fabulous study by C. D. Young of a family picking berries near Boonsboro. You can read a lot into a picture like this. The man is obviously the authority figure, standing upright and out in front. His wife is almost hidden behind the bushes. One of his daughters is wearing a prissy hat. Only the innocent child is not staring at the camera. It's quite a statement. MSA SC 1477-5359

 

64. 1905 circa: This picture was taken by a doctor in New Market. It really captures the essence of early American farming. If photographs like this one hadn't survived, a scene like this could only be described in words. This negative was very dense. The early rules of photography before light meters required you to expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights. This worked well when you had a contact printer, but today we work on double-condenser enlargers and with thin films, which reverses those early principles. MSA SC 1477-5849

 

65. 1891: Many glass plates are quite dirty when I get them. Cleaning them is very meticulous and time-consuming work and should only be attempted by a professional. When you have an 8x10 plate like this one of Baltimore Street in Cumberland by Hervey Laney, there are real advantages. On a contact printer you can use tissue paper and cotton on very small areas of the negative to hold back or transmit light as needed. Sometimes this kind of preparation takes hours, but once done, you can make as many matching contact prints as desired. If you make a 4x5 copy negative from one of the prints, you'll have a negative anyone can use to get a good print. They won't have to know all these techniques. MSA SC 1477-6701

 

66. 1916 circa: This picture really helps you to experience the power of the iron horse. You get a pretty good idea of what railroading was all about--there's a strong likeness of the engineer, the brakeman, the passengers, all dominated by the locomotive. When you enlarge a photograph like this, its impact is heightened still more. With some pictures a small print is all you need, but something like this cries out to be blown up big. MSA SC 1477-6016

 

67. 1893: Frances Benjamin Johnston made this picture when she was in Annapolis to photograph the Naval Academy. It's obviously a spontaneous shot since none of the three figures is aware of the camera. This makes it very appealing and shows that even with an 8x10 camera on a tripod you can still achieve spontaneity. It just takes more discipline to do it that way. MSA SC 1477-3589

 

68. 1890 circa: We had the original film negative for this picture of oyster boats in Cambridge Creek. It was rather flat, but by making a print on polyfiber paper and using a high contrast filter, I was able to add zip to the photograph. I actually used two and one-half times the contrast I would need with a normal print. Then I copied that print onto 4x5 film and overdeveloped the negative to further increase the contrast. Now, when I make a print from my copy negative, I continue to increase the contrast by using filters again. This is a rare case where you could say my copy negative produces better prints than the original. MSA SC 1477-6597

 

69. 1890 circa: This photograph makes such a strong statement about bygone Annapolis that we selected it for the cover of The Train's Done Been and Gone even before we really started assembling the book. Unfortunately, we were working with a copy of a copy--a third generation photograph, at least. After the book came out in 1976, Gilbert Moore brought me an album of original photographs by Henry Schaefer and this picture was in it. The new print was so sharp we could see strong detail everywhere in the picture. When we reprinted the book in 1981, this was the only thing we replaced. The new cover is ever so much better than the first edition. Our only regret was that because of the layout, we had to crop out the horse manure. MSA SC 985-28

 

70. 1920 circa: Of all the early Maryland photographers whose work I have seen, Leo Beachy had a sensitivity for human interest pictures that was unique. His ability to capture the essence of a time and place is astounding; few 35mm photographers today are able to achieve photographs like his. I think this phenomenon can only be explained by the fact that his subjects knew him well and responded without concern for his camera. This is particularly impressive when you know that he had a physical disability that required someone to help him move from place to place, and to carry his heavy glass plates and cumbersome view-camera. He often wrote captions right on the negatives—which had to be done on the emulsion side--so he had to be good at writing backwards. MSA SC 1477-5714

 

71. 1915 circa: This glass plate appeared almost blank when we saw it, and it was yellow in color. Beachy obviously underexposed it, then intensified it with pyro, which gave it the yellow appearance. To the uneducated it seemed that there was very little image, but since photographic paper is insensitive to yellow, there was more than enough contrast. MSA SC 1477-5733

 

72. 1910 circa: People often question the serious expressions on the faces in old photographs. A "portrait" like this was made on a glass plate negative and required an exposure time of up to five seconds, so the people had to pose for a long time. Beachy had to stop the lens way down to get this much depth of field. I think this is a real study in human nature; the various ages of the people makes this one of Beachy's most extraordinary photographs. MSA SC 1477-5761

 
 
 

 
The Eye of the Beholder Home Page
The Eye of the Beholder The War and Before
Sleepytime Annapolis Annapolis in Blossom
The Chesapeake Bay Vintage Photographs
Cityscape About Maryland


This information resource of the Maryland State Archives is presented here for fair use in the public domain. When this material is used, in whole or in part, proper citation and credit must be attributed to the Maryland State Archives. PLEASE NOTE: Rights assessment for associated source material is the responsibility of the user.


Tell Us What You Think About the Maryland State Archives Website!


[ Archives' Home Page  ||  All About Maryland  ||  Maryland Manual On-Line  ||  Reference & Research
||  Search the Archives   ||  Education & Outreach  ||  Archives of Maryland Online ]

Governor     General Assembly    Judiciary     Maryland.Gov

© Copyright September 04, 1998Maryland State Archives