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Thread: Early 20th century large format group photos

  1. #1

    Early 20th century large format group photos

    I have to take some photographs of groups of people in the style of a typical studio and wedding photographer from around the turn of the last century using an 8x10 camera. To get inspiration I found and bought some rather yellowed but wonderful group portraits taken by different photographers of that time (about 1895 to 1910). All the groups are weddings of between 15 to 24 people. The print size is bigger than 8x10 and I presume they are contact prints. Anyway, each photograph show superb technique and in particular I notice they all manage to keep the front row of people almost as sharp in focus as the back row and I think they must have been using front or back tilt or possibly both because I can't imagine they relied only on small apertures for their depth of focus because of the slowness of their film speed and lenses.
    Is there anyone out there who has a more intimate knowledge of how these photographers worked? If you have any answers I would be very interested.
    Many thanks, Nick.

  2. #2

    Join Date
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    Re: Early 20th century large format group photos

    Flash powder and or bulbs. Seriously.

    8x20. 11X14. Or the Cirkut Camera.

  3. #3
    funkadelic
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    Re: Early 20th century large format group photos

    Look at banquet cameras such as 5x12, 7x17, 8x20, 12x20.
    Hooray for Cirkut references.
    Chris

  4. #4

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    Re: Early 20th century large format group photos

    I've been spending a lot of time in this Swedish local history archive: www.sockenbilder.se. It's hard to navigate, not least because the website designers have insisted in catagorising *everything* by the "socken", or parish, where the photo was taken or found. You can't, as far as I can see, call up all wedding photos from all parishes.

    But, there are some gems from the late C19th through to the 50s and 60s. In particular, they show how photographers worked away from the the major cities and wealthy aristocracy. Most photos, even early wedding groups, are taken on 5x7 or smaller plates. Daylight is used whereever possible, with some odd backgrounds by today's standards.

    It's only in Swedish, but you can navigate by clicking on the names on the maps and then looking for 'brollöp' (wedding) or 'porträtt' (portrait). Here's one to get you started:

    http://www.sockenbilder.se/njutanger...?sok=br%F6llop

    Use the 'nästa' button at the bottom to get to the next page.

  5. #5

    Re: Early 20th century large format group photos

    IMO the old photographers used long times, 1/4 or 1/2 sec, the secret is how they managed that people didnt move.
    Regards
    Martin

  6. #6
    Mike Anderson's Avatar
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    Re: Early 20th century large format group photos

    Quote Originally Posted by Struan Gray View Post
    I've been spending a lot of time in this Swedish local history archive: www.sockenbilder.se. It's hard to navigate, not least because the website designers have insisted in catagorising *everything* by the "socken", or parish, where the photo was taken or found. You can't, as far as I can see, call up all wedding photos from all parishes.
    Would using google give you any leverage here? try googling "Bröllop site:sockenbilder.se". I'm often amazed at how google seems to know more about a site than the site knows about itself.

    ...Mike

  7. #7

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    Re: Early 20th century large format group photos

    100 years ago people expected to stand still for photographs- and attitudes were more formal as well. Smiles were condidered foolish, not happy. So the subjects were ready. Many older LF cameras lacked front tilt (think the common Eastman 2D); perhaps rear tilt was used instead. Those old photos are contact prints, too, which can help with sharpness issues. Smaller groups were often done in skylight studios, as well.

  8. #8

    Join Date
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    Re: Early 20th century large format group photos

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Anderson View Post
    Would using google give you any leverage here? try googling "Bröllop site:sockenbilder.se". I'm often amazed at how google seems to know more about a site than the site knows about itself.
    Good tip. Although a lot of the pages without wedding pictures have 'bröllop' in the navigation field, so it's not infallible. Google image search is a good way to get an overview of the material though - the site's structure makes you rabbit-hole your way down a maze of choices before you get to an image.

    I've been taking a brute force approach and looking at every image, but I'm after stuff that tends not to get indexed or keyworded.

  9. #9

    Re: Early 20th century large format group photos

    After a bit more research, I see that by the late 19th century rear tilt was very common and quite a few had front tilt as well as all other movements. Pretty obvious really but I had it in my head that camera movements were a mid 20th century thing (!). Thank you all for your inputs. Nick.

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