The National Institute for Genealogical Studies

LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

The National Institute for Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

Brief History of Photography 

Brief History of Photography

The “idea” of photography dates back to the 10th century “camera obscura” and “pinhole camera” described by the Arab scientist, Abu Ali al-Hasan (or Alhzaen), author of The Book of Optics. The camera obscura was a large dark box with a hole in one end which could produce an inverted image opposite it. It is the forerunner of today’s cameras. All it lacked was a lens and means of fixing the image chemically.  

It wasn’t until 1816 that a Frenchman, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, began experimenting with chemically fixing mages. His first success was in 1822, and in 1826 he created the first photograph. That photograph required an 8-hour exposure time. He called the process “heliography.” After his death in 1833 his partner, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre continued working on the photograph process. In 1837 Daguerre succeeded in reducing the exposure time to 30 minutes. He dubbed his photographs “Daguerreotypes,” and in 1839 he introduced them in Paris and New York City. 

Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, digitizing and Various Projects

  The Daguerreotype photographic process was in widespread use from 1839 through the 1920s, and 21st century Daguerreian hobbyists still use it. It was at the height of its popularity from 1839 to 1858.  

Daguerreotypes or “dags” are laterally-reversed high-contrast images with very fine, crisp details. They are always case-mounted and sealed with paper tape. The image area is mirrored, so it is necessary to hold it at an angle to see the image clearly.  

Identifying antique photographs is just one of the many things you will learn in the Photography: Clues Picture Hold, Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects” course with The National Institute for Genealogical Studies.  

Your Family Photographs

Handling and Storing   

Older photographs are fragile and easily damaged. The best way to reduce damage is to not handle photographs at all. Since that is not always practical, gloves should be worn when they are handled. Gloves prevent transferring dirt and skin oils on the delicate images. When handling images, put on the gloves and hold the prints by their edges.  

If the photo is a cabinet card or a carte de visite, do not remove the photo from the cardstock on which they are mounted. Those vintage images were printed on very thin paper that will not survive removal from their cardstock backing.  

Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, Digitizing & Various Projects

Storage 

Photographs should be stored using archival safe products such as archival sleeves, envelopes, unbuffered tissue paper, and boxes that are available online from archival supply stores. Some examples of archival storage include:  

  • Store case-mounted photographs such as daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, or domed glass frames in their original cases/frames. Wrap them individually in unbuffered archival tissue paper and then place in an archival safe box.  
  • Store black-and-white prints, black-and-white negatives, color prints and negatives in their own individual sleeves. The sleeves can be stored together in the same archival box.  
  • Store negatives in polypropylene or polyester sleeves. 
  • Store original albums separately in their own archival boxes.   

Most archival safe storage boxes come in different sizes and their metal corners allow for stacking and prevent the corners and contents from being crushed. 

Photographs are an important part of telling a family history. Learning how to handle and care for those photos is just one of the topics taught in our Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects course.

 

The Most Interesting Course I’ve Taken :  Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects

 

Carte de visite of George W. Fackler, 2nd great grandfather of Sandy Fackler. Probably taken between 25 September 1865 and 27 December 1868. Courtesy of Sandy Fackler.

Carte de visite of George W. Fackler, 2nd great grandfather of Sandy Fackler. Probably taken between 25 September 1865 and 27 December 1868. Courtesy of Sandy Fackler.

By Sandy Fackler, PLCGS. Student.

 

I knew little about the aspects of photography when I registered for Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects in December. Now, I want to recommend this course to anyone who has a collection of old or recent photographs because I believe you’ll learn at least 3 things to help you whether it is how to digitize your photos, how to identify people through facial characteristics, or how to identify when or where a photo was taken.

While I’ve scanned photos before, I hate to admit I was unaware I could scan at different dots per inch (dpi) or that my scanner would do so. Now I plan to re-scan many of my old photos to see if I can improve the images. This course also provides tips on organizing photos on a computer so I will do that as I scan.

Cabinet card of Alonzo Hiwanda, aka George F. Day, 3rd great uncle of Sandy Fackler. The names of the gentlemen on the barrel are unknown. Date unknown but probably in 1890s. Courtesy of Sandy Fackler.

Cabinet card of Alonzo Hiwanda, aka George F. Day, 3rd great uncle of Sandy Fackler. The names of the gentlemen on the barrel are unknown. Date unknown but probably in 1890s. Courtesy of Sandy Fackler.

 

I’ve purchased a cabinet card and cartes de visite of my ancestors through eBay. The cabinet card and many of the CDVs are of a circus sideshow performer. I learned about backdrops and that they were individually hand-painted by local artists. Can I find other CDVs with the same background and learn where my CDVs were taken? If so, this might lead to identifying the name of the circus he performed with.

I also have a group photo of men and women possibly taken in the 1890s-1920s. No one is identified. Using information in this course I can try to narrow the time frame through their clothes, hairstyles, and by facial comparison and analysis. Each of these topics is included along with photos for comparison.

One other thing I learned that might help. If I have a photo and can’t identify the person, I might be able to find a written description of potential candidates. Descriptions are found in World War I draft cards, World War II draft registration cars, military records, newspaper articles, and criminal records.

All in all, this was one of the most interesting courses I’ve taken. I’ve learned a lot and if you take this course I believe you will too.

Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects contains eight modules. You can register now for the next class which starts April 2, 2018. For more information on this course and the table of contents, see The National Institute website .

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Sandy Fackler, PLCGS, graduated from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies in April 2013 and holds Certificates in American Records, Irish Records, and Methodology. She is a member of the National Genealogical Society, the Ohio Genealogical Society, the Association of Professional Genealogists, and many local societies. Her favorite source is old newspapers and spends her free time reading them. She is currently researching her third great uncle (the sideshow performer), her English Quaker ancestors, and several local history stories.

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