Monday, August 25, 2008

Indiana Historical Society Exhibit~A Perfect Likeness

Indiana Historical Society Exhibit Explores Photograph Identification

Merrillville – The identification and care of the most common 19th century photographic processes is showcased in a traveling exhibition from the Indiana Historical Society, A Perfect Likeness: Care and Identification of Family Photographs, opening August 26 through October 15, 2008 at Lake County Public Library in the Periodicals Department.

Sponsored by the IHS and the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, the exhibition focuses on identifying and caring for such common 19th century photographic processes and formats as the daguerreotype, tintype, ambrotype, cabinet card and carte de visite. Examples of these formats have been drawn from the collections of the Society and George Eastman House. Joan Hostetler, an historic photograph consultant, served as the exhibit’s guest curator.

“Although there is an established profession dedicated to conserving photographs, much of the research does not trickle down to the average person with cherished family photographs,” said Hostetler. “The goal of this exhibit is to bridge the gap by relaying information to the public on identifying, dating and caring for their photographs.”

The first photographic process to have mass popularity in the United States was the daguerreotype, which was perfected by Frenchman Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre in the late 1830s. The ambrotype, seen as a cheaper alternative to the daguerreotype, became the most popular portrait process in the 1850’s. Tintypes, also known as ferrotypes, reached their greatest popularity in America and were made from 1856 well into the 20th century.

The first three popular American processes –— daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and tintypes — were housed in book-like, hinged cases and were one-of-a-kind images. After 1860, most 19th century photographs were printed on paper from glass negatives, which meant that multiple prints could be produced. Small cartes de visite, photographs mounted on card stock, became a rage in the 1860’s and 1870’s as people filled their photograph albums with portraits of friends, family and celebrities.

Larger size cabinet photographs were made from the 1870’s through the turn of the century. By 1890, photography moved from commercial portrait studios to the public as snapshot photography became possible due to plastic-based film and small, handheld cameras.