If you’re in the Mechanicsburg area on August 20 please stop by my book signing on the second floor Art Gallery at Sunbury Press from 6:00-9:00!
As many of you know, I spent hours painstakingly researching every aspect of my novel From Blue Ground. As a former historian, I wanted to be as accurate as I could with the period that I portrayed. I researched everything from architectural design to the weather during the days portrayed in the novel. (They were experiencing an unusual heat wave, with multiple days over 100 degrees!)
One of the things that inspired the depiction of some of the images in From Blue Ground was the early photography from the mid to late-nineteenth century. I had a professor in college who had quite a collection of period civil war photos, many of them glass plate negatives and stereo photographs. I recall that they were both revealing and haunting because of the clarity and depth of the photographic process of the time. Although it’s a relatively easy Google search, below you’ll find some of the research I used and the photographs that inspired some of the depictions in the book.
Many individuals typically think of “photographs” as plastic-based negatives and slides; but these photographic techniques are relatively recent inventions. Prior to the invention of cellulose nitrate film in 1903, photographic emulsions were made on glass supports. These glass supports are typically referred to as glass plate negatives. The term “glass plate negative” refers to two separate formats: the collodion wet plate negative and the gelatin dry plate. Both of these formats consist of a light-sensitive emulsion that is fixed to the glass plate base with a binder (Greta Bahnemann, 21 March 2012) (read more here).
Collodion Wet Plate Negatives were in use from 1851 until the 1880s. They were invented by Frederick Scoff Archer, an English sculptor, who using a viscous solution of collodion, coated glass with light-sensitive silver salts. Because it was glass and not paper, wet glass plates created a sharper, more stable and detailed negative. Furthermore, a photographer could produce several prints from one negative. A Collodion wet plate negative can usually be identified by an unevenly coated emulsion, thick glass, rough edges, and sometimes a photographer’s thumb print on the edge.
Silver Gelatine Dry Plate Negatives were invented by Dr. Richard L. Maddox and first became available in 1873. They were the first economically successful durable photographic medium. Unlike the wet plate variety gelatine dry plates were more easily transported, usable when dry, and needed less exposure to light than the wet plates. Other distinguishing features between the wet and dry variety were the thinner glass and a more evenly coated emulsion in the dry plate negative form. Dry plate glass negatives were in common use between the 1880s and the late 1920s (From Somerset Photography, 2009) (read more here).