I wonder what my great-great grandmother would think about, had she known 115 years ago, that her great-great granddaughter would one day be carefully scanning her glass negatives on to her computer. We take pictures, share them with friends and relatives and usually give very little thought to generations in the future rummaging through stacks of unmarked photos, trying to learn a bit more about us and our daily life.
I have learned a lot about her, a glimpse into her personality and snapshots into the way she lived. Without a doubt, her skill and eye for photography comes through in the shots I assume she took for her own pleasure and experimentation. She loved light and texture and traveled by train to many locations to take landscape photos that pull you into the image. She was known in town as an experienced photographer of women and children. She adored her son, his wife and her grandchildren and their images show in many of the existing glass negatives.
I enjoy those negatives she might have thrown out, one showed her slender fingers imprinted on the negative, making me wonder if she caught the negative before it had slipped to the ground and broke. Others show her shadow, boater hat firmly planted on her head, which she would have cropped out when printing. You get a quick glimpse of her in another negative, her tall thin reflection appearing in the window behind her grandson.
To get the images scanned onto my computer would require the purchase of a professional scanner and hours of careful scanning. Internet research turned up a supplier for archival negative holders and boxes. Adobe Bridge let me catalogue the negatives for research and grouping. Each bit of research gave a sharper picture of this creative multi-faceted lady and the locations around where I grew up.
After scanning and cataloguing slides I determined that I wanted to frame one for the house. The hard part was then to decide which one. I played with multiple images, cropping and sizing and purchased a wide format photo printer to see the results of the collaboration. The detail from the small 4 by 4 inch glass negative surprised me, and it held up when enlarged to images over 13 by 22 inches.
I chose a photo of the Olean, New York boat launch taken around 1900. The water on the river was so still that it perfectly reflected all that surrounded its banks. Mounted and framed it now hangs where it can be enjoyed by the next generation, a 115 year old collaboration of two related artistic personalities. Priceless.