Sunday, 23 October 2016

Tell The Truth Nora

This is a scan of a tiny one and a half inch print which comes from deep within the "Unknown" box. But we do know a little about the subject of the photograph. On the reverse is written: "Taken at Ballycastle specially for you (liar). Love from Nora" Oh Nora, I can't believe you would lie - honesty is printed on your face. 

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Fading Back Into Time

This is a scan of a negative which was acquired from the depths of an on-line auction site. The wonders of modern digital techniques allow us to scan such treasures, repair them, remove the scratches and dust spots, and sprinkle them with newness. 

They retain an objective patina - the car, the clothes all speak of an age now gone - but the crisp monochrome doesn't quite fit. If it had been a print rather than a negative, it would have acquired a sepia coating that would have been as effective as a date stamp. But negatives tend not to fade in the same way; and therefore the digital tools that cleaned the negative up have to be brought into use again, to fade the print back into its' proper time.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

A Fine Horse - A Heap Of A Fine Horse?

I like to think that this photograph was taken by Thomas Heap of Sowerby. Admittedly, it doesn't have his name on, but Thomas did advertise himself as a "portrait, landscape and equestrian photographer", and here we have a portrait of a man, set in a landscape (limited as it may be) and undoubtedly an equestrian horse. And the photograph was bought from the same stall as the one of the unknown man that clearly has his name attached to it. Whoever took the photograph and whoever the man may be - the one thing that is certain is that it is a fine horse.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Riding The Technological Rip-Tide In A One Horse Town

Over the years, I have known a good number of people who came from Sowerby and they all shared a similar physical trait. There was a certain bluntness about their features, almost as though the natural lines of their bodies had been evened out by the relentless work of the wind and the rain blowing down from the moors. I can well believe that this chap lived in Sowerby - he has the look.

Whilst the subject of these old Carte de Visite's is always fascinating, I must confess that I am first drawn to the photographers themselves - in this case Thomas Heap of Sowerby. To understand Victorian photographers you have to understand the technological transformation which turned a pseudo-scientific experiment into a popular mass market in a few short decades. 

Most Victorian photographers were not born into the business and many were not even trained in the business. They rode a technological rip-tide, seizing the opportunities presented by a rapidly emerging mass market that meant every town and city, every large village and crowded settlement, had the need of a photographic studio.

Thomas Heap was a perfect example. He was born in the nearby village of Warley in 1847, the son of a "cloth fuller". As was so often the case, that is the trade he followed his father and grandfather into, and in the 1871 and 1881 census, he is shown as working in the textile industry. By 1891 he has undergone a transformation, the hands that had previously filled and raised cloth were now soaked in developer and fixer: he had opened a photographic studio in Sowerby.

He later advertised himself as a "Portrait, Landscape and Equestrian Photographer" - just in case any of the blunt farmers of Sowerby wanted their carthorses immortalising in silver bromide salts.