Family Photographs by Stephen Gill

Zoom Meeting Thursday 17 February

Notes by Susanne Young

Another well attended zoom meeting last night which helpfully explained the potential gains to be had from old family photographs.

Stephen, a photographer & photo restorer, took us through a brief history of photography starting with the daguerreotype, an expensive image printed on copper in 1840s & 1850s in the UK. Later C19th ambrotypeimages were printed on glass and cheaper ferrotype images were printed on iron. Daguerreotype images can be identified by brush marks across the picture and ferrotype images can be identified by a missing corner. All of these images are printed back to front.

The carte de visite was invented in Paris c.1855 providing a number of low-cost images (these have square corners up to 1870 & rounded corners thereafter). Cabinet cards were similar to the carte de visite but larger. Seaside and street photographers were popular late C19th & early C20th. Studio photographs often included elaborate back drops and props. 

Film cameras with pre-loaded film were first available to the general public around 1888 so that people could take their own photographs.

As viewers we are often initially drawn to the faces of photographic images but by looking closer at the detail it may be possible to identify a date period from hairstyles and clothing. As family historians we might think about where & why the photograph was taken & who by ā€“ who might be missing from a family group? Looking for other clues can be interesting such as the name & address of the photographer & other printed detail. 

Modern digital cameras and smart phones are ideal for photographing, copying & enlarging images which can then be looked at in greater detail, otherwise using a magnifying glass can reveal more detail.

PEL (Preservation Equipment Ltd) provide reasonably priced solutions for storing old photographs which ideally should be kept in acid free bags. We should also label & carefully store our own photographs for future generations.

A number of interesting questions & answers followed & a warm vote of thanks was given by Lynda Balmforth.

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