Yesterday, artist and photographer France Scully Osterman hosted a tour of the exhibit and shared some of her expert knowledge about the techniques and technology used by the 19th century photographers whose works are featured in the exhibit.
While I’m certainly not a trained, nor even much of an amatuer photographer, I still found the process and the history of these types of techniques fascinating. It was interesting to hear Ms. Osterman talk about the parallel similarities of the ever-changing technologies of the mid 19th century, and what is happening in today’s world of photography. For example, today, many photographers are moving from the world of silver gelatins towards digital technology. Ms. Osterman explained that they changed processes frequently early on in the mid 19th Century going from daguerreotypes which are silver plated copper fumed with mercury, to calotypes which are paper negatives and prints made from paper negatives then on to tintypes and ambrotypes, which are images on glass and metal.
One excellent question that was raised during the tour was how these 19th century photographers learned these skills and techniques, and how they became informed about new technologies in a world without Internet access. Ms. Osterman explained that most of the information was passed along in journals and at the time, there weren’t really any photography teachers. Another interesting part of the talk was realizing how time consuming some of the processes were, like exposure times, and how important light and color were to get the desired look for each photograph.
I learned a lot during the tour, but it left me wanting more. So tonight, I plan to attend the artist talk and demonstration in the C3 Theater, Center for Creative Connections at the DMA. Tonight Ms. Osterman will talk further about the techniques and technologies used by 19th century photographers and will demonstrate the wet-plate collodion process, as well as display some of her own work.