This is an example of me getting sidetracked when I’m supposed to be working. I’m doing some research for my most recent book, and in it I have a photographer who is working in 1905. I wasn’t sure how the negatives of the pictures he took would appear, and it’s rather vital to my plot – so I did a little googling and came up with some fabulous links and images of the sort of cumbersome glass plates they would use in those days.
I’m especially interested in old photographs because I’m a big fan of the saying ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ – which isn’t perhaps a very good sales pitch for an author – but I love old photographs and a few years ago I bought a whole pile of them at an antiques shop; I couldn’t bear to think of the family being separated and picked off one by one by various purchasers. Basically, the children and the pretty eldest daughter would no doubt get bought, and the toothless old granny with her dodgy ringleted wig and the stern, moustachioed granddad type would be left lingering. So I got them all for a fiver and thus kept them together.
I’ve also recently visited Lacock Abbey down in Wiltshire, which is the home of photographic pioneer Henry Fox Talbot. At Lacock, I saw the famous latticed window which, in August 1835, became the subject of the oldest camera negative in existence. The original picture is tiny, and an interesting fact they had there was something like we take more pictures in one day than they took in the whole of the nineteenth century. Incredible.
One of the links to Edwardian photographic negatives I found was on ebay. A seller had two Edwardian negatives and I’m not kidding, I was sooooo tempted to purchase them for myself and may yet still do so. But I had a little play around with a .jpg one of the plates they were advertising. You could tell the picture was of a young couple. Just the sort of thing that fires my imagination. I was frustrated, though, as they were, obviously, negatives and there were no real details in the plate. I thought that maybe the lady had dark hair and a white blouse, and the man had fair hair, but that was about it. The same went for the other picture. I had a feeling it was two distinct couples, as in this one, the chap’s hair was different, the style of the girl’s hair was different and she had what looked like a big locket on a chain hanging around her neck.
Now comes the scientific bit. Riddled with curiosity, I ran the pictures through Paint Shop Pro and did a ‘negative image’ effect. And there they were – a young Edwardian couple, heads close together, looking quite happy. I did the same with the other couple. This one was a little more formal and the pose rather more stiff. But it was still lovely to see them, and I realised that it was a pocket watch on a chain the lady had around her neck.
The negative plates are currently in America, but if I do bend to my whims and purchase them, I’ll be posting them on the blog!
Oh whoops. Just pressed ‘Buy Now’…