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Early Photography (and later)

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The first photograph was taken by Joseph-Nic?phore Ni?pce in September 1824 in France. He used a large wooden box as a camera and a stone plate coated in asphalt as film. The camera was pointed out his second-story window, and he left the asphalt exposed for a full day. When he rinsed the stone plate in lavender oil to remove any unhardened asphalt, what remained was the first modern photograph (See Robert Kunzig, Discover, August 2000:24-27.)

In the 1830's the Frenchman Daguerre discovered that he could cut the exposure time down to half an hour if he used silver halide crystals and a chemical developer. Unfortunately, the resulting image, while sharp and detailed, could not be easily reproduced.

In the 1840's several new techniques and photographic processing systems were created or discovered. One of the most useful involved Sir John Herschel's discovery that ferric (iron) salts are photosensitive. Blue prints, or cyanotypes, were inexpensive, easy to make, and relatively permanent, and many amateurs and professionals liked the fact that coated paper was easy to make or to purchase. The bright blue color was a draw-back for some, but you will notice that Montgomery enjoyed creating cyanotypes and probably printed off many of her early plates that way to decide what to mount and to share. The scrapbook pages on display in this exhibition have several examples of Montgomery's cyanotypes. The cyanotypes disappear after her marriage when she bought a Kodak to take on her honeymoon; as a rural minister's busy wife, new mother, and author, she had no time for her old hobby of film processing and printing.

Montgomery created cyanotypes from the glass plate negatives used in her 4 X 5 camera of the 1890's. The dry glass plate she used was a successor to the wet plates used from the 1850's to the 1870's. The wet plate technique had required the application of a light-sensitive chemical gel to a glass plate that then had to be exposed quickly before the surface dried. In the field this rapid application and exposure could be tricky and messy. In the 1870's, glass plates were coated and sensitized and sold dry. They could be stored for later use and after exposure they did not have to be developed right away. Dozens of Montgomery's glass plate negatives are owned and preserved by the University of Guelph. For a record of some of the fun she had with the plates and images, see her Daily Echo article on photography in this exhibition.

The most famous name in photography, Kodak, was a word invented by George Eastman, who had owned a dry plate and film company and had revolutionized the photography industry by marketing his easy-to-operate Kodak in 1888. So famous did the Kodak name become that Eastman eventually changed the name of his company to incorporate it, becoming the Eastman Kodak Company. The Kodak cameras were meant to make photography accessible to everyone. The company's slogan has become a by-word in advertizing: "You Press the Button, We Do the Rest"(See Bill Belier, "1888-1988: The Centenary of the Kodak," Photographic Canadiana, Jan.-Feb. 1988:2-4). Not only did Eastman produce adaptors so that glass plate cameras could use film, but he made the hand-held film camera one that could be pre-loaded by Kodak and reloaded by the company when the photographs were processed, or one that could be loaded and then developed by the photographer.

Even though she seems to have set aside her own film processing and her creation of cyanotypes after she married in 1911, Montgomery continued to take photographs for the rest of her life. The University of Guelph owns some two thousand images taken of and by Montgomery. See L.M. Montgomery as a Photographer.

[Thanks to Andrea Kunard for background information on photography prepared for the 1999 exhibition The Visual Imagination of Lucy Maud Montgomery.]


L.M. Montgomery as Canadian Hero | Montgomery's Contemporaries | Tips for Teachers
Introduction to Photography | Creating Your Own Scrapbook | History of Scrapbook Keeping

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