The Draw of the Archive

Regarding my love for old photographs:

So I have come to the realization over the last few years that I have a real passion for old photographs. I have always loved art and going to museums, and have even had a general fascination of ancient cultures (especially ancient Egypt). I have discovered so much about my interest in old photographs in large part from the collection of glass plate negatives passed down through my family from my Great Great Great Uncle Elmer Harrold. Many of these negative were created in the early 1900s and I was just entranced with them and the fact that many of them were taken over 100 years ago.

This collection mixed with my newly acquired access to a darkroom and my new-found passion for working with film and making prints made for a perfect situation where I was able to truly understand the magic of these photographs from the early years of photography.

Making prints from these glass plates was really an experience that I find it difficult to explain how exciting and significant it was for me. I was enjoying so many aspects of the task before me. It was a piece of family history. It was a looking glass through time. It was working in the darkroom. And it was beautiful photography. Creating prints of something that probably had not been printed (or even seriously looked at) in my lifetime, really gripped my love for dipping into history. I have always been interested in archives and historical photographic records. These days, I go to estate sales and buy negative and slides, because I have this curiosity when it comes to photographs being these little windows to the past that transport my mind and my creativity to that time. For some people it is in reading Jane Austen novels,  watching movies, or going to museums, but for me this excitement is fully accessed by viewing old photographs. The black and white tones of old photography is just something that cannot be beat.

There are few things in life that make me want to be able to wax eloquent regarding them, but this idea of being steeped in photographic nostalgia is right there. I find that I am fully transported to another time, weather that is 30 years ago or 130 to the time when photography was just catching on.  My Uncle Elmer’s photos are simply amazing to look at but then those feelings rocket to another level when I hold a glass plate in my hands, read his handwriting on the paper envelope, and know that this photo was created in 1901.

Working with old photographs and making prints of them is an exciting way to step into history and preserve that window to the past. I love that other projects are going viral and getting some traction when it comes to public interest. The recent success of the “Rescued Film Project” has been very exciting to watch. I love to see other people finding a way to fulfill this passion and to preserve and view history through photography.

Hopefully I will be able to continue working on the Elmer Harrold Project in the future and be able to share many more of those incredible glimpses at the world in the early 1900s.