Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Twice Told Tuesday - An Historical Photograph


Twice Told Tuesday features a photography related article reprinted from
my collection of old photography books, magazines, and newspapers.
PACIFIC COAST CHAMPIONS OF 1876

Save any old picture you may have; the time may come when it is historically valuable. Do you know what is an historical photograph? Read this and you may have a different perspective. Very appropriate to the family historian.
 
Historical Photography
By C. B. Turrill
Camera Craft Magazine
November 1914

The mention of history has a tendency to cause a momentary mental picture of numerous large, heavy books, full of details, statistics, and all sorts of disagreeable things that must be read and remembered, and when historical photography is mentioned in connection with our own country, one naturally feels sorry for the enthusiast who does not seem to realize we have so few ivy-clad towers or picturesque castles, and no kings except those of diamonds, spades, clubs and hearts. So we are quite prone to continue the usual routine of photographing Bill's back yard, the dog therein, and other things of everyday.

However, a new country has one great advantage in that we can get in on "the ground floor" in our historical picture-making. And besides, we can take the baby's picture, at as frequent intervals as possible, on the chance that he may become President some day - or that he may be hung. In either event, his picture becomes an historical asset. So with the house in which he was born and the pond in which he sported as a boy playing hookey.

So, after all, historical photography does not mean only the making of artistic properly lighted photographs of crumbling buildings that we new ages ago. We are making history all the time. The events of yesterday are history today. The events of yesterday are history today. The flag raising, the parade, the casualty of last week, each has been embalmed and becomes a part of that mysterious something we call history. It is a part of the life story of the individual, the town, the county, the State or the nation.

In almost every amateur's album of prints are pictures of historic value. An instance will prove this: Some years ago the writer was engaged in the almost hopeless task of furnishing the illustrative part of a book, "The First Half Century," which recounts the struggles and successes of St. Ignatius University. Many of the desired pictures were difficult to find; in fact, a few were secured only after some two years' search.

The portrait of the founder of the institution was one of the most important. Photography as we know it had not been introduced at that period and the good priest in his modesty and fully occupied time had never "sat" for a daguerreotype. Somewhere was found a modern "Brownie" print, soiled and crumpled, that some "kid" had "snapped" when the loved priest was not looking. The film could not be found and the boy who made it unknown. The picture was a poor one and shows the man in his decrepitude. It was copied, enlarged, worked up, and is the only portrait in existence of the founder of a great educational institution. That little picture is an invaluable historical one.

The writer has just had occasion to print from some negatives made twenty-seven years ago, subjects that were quite commonplace at the time, yet subjects that could not be otherwise obtained, illustrating conditions that passed away a quarter of a century ago.

The almost daily search for such things has impressed upon me the importance of them and causes me to plead for their preservation. This is one side of a many-sided matter. Save any old picture you may have; the time may come when it is historically valuable.

Turrill, C.B. "Historical Photography," Camera Craft Magazine, November 1914.

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