Bellows camera

You’ve seen pictures made from a bellows camera, especially here in the US. They were used during the Civil War to record history and people. I’m currently listening to an audiobook in which one of the main characters is an artist photographer. She uses a bellows camera for her work, after buying it on a whim at an auction. She then had to learn how to use it, so studied with another photographer to master the camera. Her process with this camera involves coating a piece of glass with colloidal silver, taking the picture, leaving herself enough time to get to her darkroom before everything dries. Frankly, the story is not very good, but I will finish it because of the artist character and her way of looking at the world as an artist.

In doing a little research, a bellows camera can take other formats, but this artist uses glass with silver to produce her photographs. This is the same method that Ansel Adams and other well-known photographers used. The Amon Carter Museum of American Art has an extensive collection of photographs, including some by Adams. The museum has also produced a pamphlet about the different kinds of photograph-making over time. We live in an amazing world! From the museum’s website, you can search the digitized collection and find lots of information. I typed in the word silver, and got this list. I love Laura Gilpin‘s photographs, but didn’t realize that she, too, used gelatin silver for her pictures. Do a search for Gilpin and see what comes up.

Note on the photographs here: According to Library of Congress and Wikipedia, these photos are now in the public domain. If this information is incorrect, I hope someone will correct me. The Library of Congress also has a whole section called Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints. Like I said, an amazing time. I just heard recently that all homesteading records for each state are being digitized.




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