Old, older, oldest ~

I have many passions (far too many, according to some) but the one that has captured my soul in photography for as long as I can remember is a passion for antique and non-silver photography. I'm an ardent collector of old photographs (but oddly not so much old cameras; I'm more a "software" guy than a "hardware" guy, I guess) and have at times been a dedicated practitioner of the arts, working in platinum and gum dichromate. The juncture of history and photography is fascinating. The one above is a salted-paper print; the inscription on the back, carefully recording the family names, is dated 1865. And why that fascinates me is this: the actual light that made this photograph reflected directly off those people, and I'm holding that light in my hand. That thrills me right down to the bone.

I had a contract for several years with Whitman College in Walla Walla, restoring old negatives and prints.  We had a beautiful old Elwood 5 x 7 diffusion enlarger, so we were able to print directly from some very old glass plate negatives. Bringing an old colloidal wet-plate negative back to life can really change the way you view photography's history, as well as your own.

The people you see reappearing on such a print, long dead more than a century,  would have interesting things to tell us if we could only listen. It makes me wonder what sorts of things we may want to tell some future restorer, a century from now, deciphering a by-then obsolete digital file.

Hope it's worth the telling.