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Thread: Great great Grandma's negatives

  1. #1

    Great great Grandma's negatives

    I inherited more than 200 of my great great grandmother's glass negatives. Mary M. West was the only female photographer in Bradford, Pennsylvania from 1870 to 1906. She moved to the area with her photographer husband, Jacob, and broke off from him in 1896 with her own studio. She was know in town for her photographs of women and children. The personal negatives that I inherited include photos of her grandchildren, family and many landscapes.

    I have been doing historical research on her for years and have now been researching what it took to be a photographer during this period. I have just discovered that she belonged to the Photographer's Association of America and attended the convention in Celoron, New York. I am pretty sure that one of her negatives is a photo of Fitz W. Guerin, who was the associations president at the time.

    I purchased a professional flat bed negative scanner and wide format printer to produce prints, and I am amazed at the amount of detail that the negatives contain.


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    Any suggestions of how to get the most out of her negatives is greatly welcome.

  2. #2

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    Re: Great great Grandma's negatives

    Quote Originally Posted by catrackgraphics View Post
    Any suggestions of how to get the most out of her negatives is greatly welcome.
    What do you want to get out of the negatives? Resolution? Tonal scale? Appreciation? Knowledge? Income?

    I understand your excitement about the images. 200 plates from that era are a very interesting find. If they are connected to your family, even more so.

    Michael

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    Re: Great great Grandma's negatives

    Contact print them on silver chloride paper from Michael and Paula.

  4. #4

    Re: Great great Grandma's negatives

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael E View Post
    What do you want to get out of the negatives? Resolution? Tonal scale? Appreciation? Knowledge? Income?

    I understand your excitement about the images. 200 plates from that era are a very interesting find. If they are connected to your family, even more so.

    Michael
    I am working on a book about her and will be including her photographs. I would love to have a display of her collection at the local university in Bradford during their old home week also.

  5. #5

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    Re: Great great Grandma's negatives

    Do you have any prints made by/for her? That might give you an idea pf what she had in mind. Too often you see old negatives reproduced in a very factual and flat way. I think a print like she would have envisioned it would do her work more justice. This would be even easier if you have the negative to go with the print.
    A puny body weakens the soul.
    Paul Cezanne

  6. #6
    Jac@stafford.net's Avatar
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    Re: Great great Grandma's negatives

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Noel View Post
    Contact print them on silver chloride paper from Michael and Paula.
    Good idea. Anything digital in the path to print can interfere. It is unlikely she had the kind of control we might attempt with a scan, or that a digital device might impose without our knowledge.

  7. #7

    Re: Great great Grandma's negatives

    Quote Originally Posted by JeRuFo View Post
    Do you have any prints made by/for her? That might give you an idea pf what she had in mind. Too often you see old negatives reproduced in a very factual and flat way. I think a print like she would have envisioned it would do her work more justice. This would be even easier if you have the negative to go with the print.
    I have prints that she did, but they are portraits, I don't know that anyone ever saw the landscapes that she took.

  8. #8

    Re: Great great Grandma's negatives

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Noel View Post
    Contact print them on silver chloride paper from Michael and Paula.
    What would it take to do these type of prints? I don't have a darkroom and developing equipment.

  9. #9

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    Re: Great great Grandma's negatives

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Noel View Post
    Contact print them on silver chloride paper from Michael and Paula.
    +1

    I did that with some glass negs a few years ago. It was really fun to do, and the prints were marvelous.

    If your bathroom has no windows, the trays go in the bathtub, the paper and neg on a piece of plywood you set on the toilet, with a lightbulb overhead. Then sit on the floor or an upended 5 gallon bucket. It's a variation of what Edward Weston did with silver chloride paper. The paper is really slow, and even with a bulb you'll have multiple second exposures, so changes are easy and pretty forgiving. Use a metronome as a timer, and cover and uncover the paper with a piece of cardboard. You'll get the hang of it in about ten minutes.

    Most of all, have fun.
    Bruce Barlow
    author of "Finely Focused" and "Exercises in Photographic Composition"
    www.brucewbarlow.com

  10. #10
    jp's Avatar
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    Re: Great great Grandma's negatives

    Scanning's fine and useful but the silver chloride paper would be a traditional continuation which would not be difficult to do.

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