Assignment #1 : Introductory Reading

The first reading is the first 5 chapters in the textbook (free pdf version here or purchase hard copy here). This is introductory stuff before we get into specific types of photos. 

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Some assorted notes from the reading.

Most collectors specialize in one or two areas. I know of few people who collect all forms of photography, and a collector will often specialize in a time an era, such as Civil War photos, baseball or Daguerreotypes.

Nothing beats hands on experience. With hands on experience– looking and handling photos in person– you will be able to identify many reprints right away. They will simply look modern.

Most cheap online counterfeits and reprints of antique photos– such as cabinet cards and CDVs– are digital computer prints and are easily identified by the minute dot pattern under magnification. The black light (covered in a later chapter) will also identify many modern reprints.

Photography identification can be an inexact science, in particular when it comes to dating. Many photos you can be certain of the date, but with early photos, such as cabinet cards and CDVs, you will give a range. You might says 1870s or Civil War era. The word ‘circa’ is an often used work. Circa means ‘within a few years.’ “Circa 1860′ means ‘1860 plus or minus a few years.’

Some famous photographers reused their images over the years, so it can be impossible to pinpoint an exact year a photo as made. Mathew Brady made and sold his famous photos of Abraham Lincoln over several years. This means, while you can be confindent a cabinet card was made by Mathew and is from the 1860s, you can’t be sure of the exact year. The famous baseball photographer George Burke worked similarly to Brady and, while you can be confident by the stamp on back that a Burke photo is from the 1930s, you won’t be able to pinpoint a year.

With a particular cabinet card, there can be honest debates about its age. Even when three parties agree it is original, one may say its from the 1870s and another may say its from the 1880s. Often times, they are debating the age of the equipment and uniform of the baseball player in the image.

However, there are many photo where you can be certain of the year and sometimes even the day it was made. Many photos have the dates stamped on them.

Despite all the technical terms you might hear ‘Type I, Type II’ describing a photo is about using common sense, plain language to tell what it is. “This is an original photo from the 1870s” is plain language everyone can understand. “The image for this photo was shot by the photographer in the 1930s but printed at a later date” is language anyone can understand. One reason why I don’t like the Type I, Type II stuff is, not because I think its incorrect, but that it makes confusing something that shouldn’t be confusing.

Never be to proud to ask for others’ opinions or say you don’t know. No one– not even know-it-alls– know it all.

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ZFA2619Hurrell_5_lg1920s-30s Hollywood studio photographer George Hurrell is an example of a famous photographer who made ‘original printed later’ of his own photos (The below is of John Barrymore). He made new editions around 1980 in various sizes. Many, such as this one, are hand signed and limited edition numbered on front. Other of the new versions have his rubber stamp on back and are unsigned.

The later made ones are identified because they are commonly known to be made later, the paper is snow white (as opposed to the toned/sepia/off white vintage versions) and black light identifies the paper as modern. Any signed on front and limited edition numbered is modern.

The modern signed versions sell for a good amount of money.

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Homework questions to answer for assignment #1)

1) Give one way a photograph can be identified as a reprint made many years after the image was shot.

2) What does it mean when a photograph is authentic?

3) What is the difference between a fake and a forgery?

4) Under a microscope, how does a computer digital reprint of a photograph differ from the original photograph?

5) What is the difference between original and original printed later?

6) What does a later generation photograph mean?

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Course Assignments:

Assignment #1 : Introductory Reading

Assignment #2: Albumen Prints

Assignment #3: Gelatin Silver Prints

Assignment #4: Daguerreotypes, tintypes, ambrotypes and other ‘hard’ early photos

Assignment #5: Stamps and Tags

Assignment #6: Color Photographs

Assignment #7: Real Photo Postcards

Assignment #8: Antique Mounted and Card Photographs

Assignment #9: News Photos and Press Photos

Assignment #10: More News Photos

Assignment #11: Provenance

Assignment #12: Other Antique Paper Photo Processes

Assignment #13: Modern Photomechanical and Digital Processes

Assignment #14: Making Final Identification Judgments