Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Photographers … my grandmother & my husband

Around 1885 the gelatin dry plate glass negative was introduced and my Grandmother Prentiss was thrilled. She was an avid photographer and a very adept one. She not only took pictures but she also developed and printed them.

My family is lucky to have retained many of my grandmother’s glass negatives and we’ve been able to make prints from them. The little girl in the picture below is her daughter, my mother. She and her sister were favorite subjects, as were landscapes, structures and, of course, the formal family portraits.

Fast forward to the late 1950’s when my husband appeared on the scene. He had just left “Life” magazine when I met him and was embarking on a free-lance career in photography. How different this was from the days of the old glass plates; but, nevertheless, it was still a cumbersome process.

I remember all the equipment that he had and how we made over a small bathroom in our apartment to be his darkroom. He would spend hours in there … enhancing, enlarging and printing the photos and then I would pitch in and help to wash them in the bathtub. They were then clipped to a line to dry.

Here are just two of his photos. The portrait is of Margaret Bourke White, the famous “Life” photographer and the other is a prize winning photo that he took for “Time” magazine.

Unfortunately Dick’s career as a photographer was cut short due to illness but it was challenging and fun while it lasted. I often wonder what both he and my grandmother would think of the advancements in the photographic field if they were alive today.

I keep my little digital camera with me always and love to record what I see. However, I can’t help but feel a little guilty when I produce a half decent picture and realize I did it with the aid of my trusty HP photosmart … a far cry from their devotion and expertise !


Blogger kenju said...

I think all our parents and grandparents would be astounded by all the advances made in technology of every sort. I often wonder what my grandmother would have said about computers.

1:14 PM  
Blogger Arkansas Patti said...

The science really has gone out of photography. However, a good photographers eye can not be simplified. I could use the same equipment as a good photographer and the end results would be vastly different. That marvelous eye the truly good ones have.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I never sis much darkroom processing, but I did enough to understand the process. Now everybody is a photographer, and most have their own digital darkroom.

3:46 PM  
Blogger KGMom said...

I didn't recall that Dick was a photographer. But glass plates--that's real olde time photography.
And now you are all digital.
From glass to pixels.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Ginnie, I also used film cameras and later did my own developing and printing, both at my parents home and later in college. It was great fun and while I really appreciate the digital cameras of today, they cannot compare to the ones that preceded them. There was definitely more skill required back then.

7:59 PM  
Anonymous Big John said...

My dad (born 1901) was a keen photographer and had a collection of glass plate negatives. Sadly they were lost in the chaos of London in WW2.

6:42 AM  
Anonymous schmidleysscribblins, said...

How nice to have memories preserved in photos. I have photos of my Mom when she was small, and I love them. Although they were poor, someone managed to take photos. A wonderful gift.

The artistic talent really runs through your family.


1:07 PM  
Blogger Syd said...

Ginnie, both your husband and grandmother were so talented. I love photography and those old black and whites are great.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

A far cry indeed but to actually be a part of the evolution of photography, priceless. I just adore the old black and white family photos and portraits that my mother saved and I now have.
Great story Ginnie, thanks for sharing it with us.
Love Di ♥

9:32 PM  
Blogger Chancy said...

And also now we can take decent photos with our phones.

We are almost up with Maxwell Smart and his "shoe phone"

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Gabbygeezer said...

You are indeed fortunate to have those images and memories. I "learned" photography with those cumbersme Speed Graphics in the journalism school at the U of Wisconsin. In my first job, a Rolliflex was the tool of choice. Some years later, everyone went to 35-millimeter cameras. There also was a brief romance with the Land (Polaroid) instant-image cameras. I never was a good photographer, but had to snap scenes when various jobs forced me to do so. I did the best I could, and better equipment was most welcome as the years went by.

4:44 AM  
Blogger Haddock said...

Its good that you still have these old photos.
Yes digital photography is easy and zero cost, but we all have to move with the times.

11:48 AM  

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