Research can take us to some odd places but a perfect English village on a perfect summer’s day was not a bad result at Lacock Abbey where I was parked up and fuelled by a stiff Americano before the gates had even opened for Sunday’s demonstrations of early photography. Of course I’d visited Lacock before, including once since this whole thing began, but mindsets change, new things become significant and the brain becomes ready to reabsorb some of the detail that it just might have discarded along the way. Revision was long overdue. In fact a lot of what I saw and heard yesterday I did already ‘know’ from previous experience and reading, but seeing things in the round (camera obscura, mousetrap camera, photogenic drawings) always makes a difference, not to mention the vital ingredient – meeting experts and other enthusiasts.
I had Victorian photographer Alex Burnham (in costume and also in the know) cornered very early on, which was maybe just as well in view of the rising temperatures.
He talked me through what was going on in his mysterious darkroom on wheels, , then it was on to see man-in-hot-blue-tent Richard Cynan Jones who explained the differences in the chemistry of these fab photogenic drawings.
In fact what began as a quick chat became more of a pop-up conference (?) when Richard and I discovered a mutual interest in events in Edinburgh and St Andrews in the 1840s.
At this point I had more or less taken root in front of richard’s tent, with one passer by assuming we were – ahem – an item (!) Oops, sorry about that, Richard, but there’s nothing quite like stumbling on someone who cares about the same things, particularly if they are of no particular significance to the rest of the world!
Time for a lunch/hydration break during which I visited the museum (I particularly like this exhibit – no excuse for forgetting the process now) and amassed a few more questions for Messrs Burnham and Jones.
It was an absolute pleasure to be at Lacock yesterday and I’d like to thank not only Richard and Alex (please check them out, especially if you need a historic photographer any time!) but also the other NT staff and volunteers who set up the day and kept loads of adults and children informed and entertained.
Since seeing the wet collodion process demonstrated back in May, I’m struck more and more by how the medium of photography has been changed by the digital age and it’s good to know that historic processes are, if anything, increasing in popularity. Why? I’ll leave that for a more philosophical moment, but now that I’ve begun to revisit my research sources I think I might use this site to list a few more more of them. No point in keeping it all to myself.
To start the ball rolling here are a few that cropped up after Lacock and also after the Bristol Festival of Photography which somehow failed to get a blog post of its own.
Historic Photographic Processes:
Calotype Process (video reconstruction, Richard Cynan Jones on Lacock FB page)
Making a Salt Print (St Paul’s Photogrphy Centre on Youtube)
Michael Schaaf, Wet Collodion Photography