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Identifying 19th Century Photographic Processes

  • October 13, 2022
  • 1:00 PM - 3:30 PM
  • Zoom

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Identifying 19th Century Photographic Processes  

This session will explore techniques used to identify 19th century photographic processes such tintypes, albumen prints, and salted paper prints, among others. Similar to identifying a tree or other plants, there are key identifying features that make up each process. Many of these processes have common traits and it can be difficult to distinguish the differences. However, by using a method that examines the photograph by the object view, the surface view, and the magnification view, you can narrow down your choices. It is a subjective process that takes practice, but over time you will begin to identify the different traits of each process.    

The workshop will be led by photographer and archivist James Gehrt, who will use multiple cameras and a microscope with streaming capabilities so attendees can see these identifying techniques firsthand. If you have a small handheld microscope and sample images, you can follow along with your materials, but it is not necessary to have these items in order to learn from the workshop. Participants will receive a recommendation for an affordable microscope. 

Once the photo process is identified, proper housing and care can be applied to the image. Preservation and housing of materials will not be covered in this workshop, but may be the topic of a future workshop if there is interest.

The workshop is free of charge. Register by Wed Oct 12.  You will receive the Zoom link when you register.


About the presenter

James Gehrt is a photographer, archivist, and educator with 30 years of experience working with and preserving historic photographic processes. After receiving an undergraduate degree in photography from the Savannah College of Art and Design, he accepted a position as the Lab Manager at the Chicago Albumen Works. While at the Albumen Works, he worked on duplication, printing, and digitization for major museums and collections including, The National Archives, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of the City of New York, and others. After witnessing the industry slowly transition to a digital workflow, Gehrt accepted the position as Digital Projects Lead in the Digital Assets and Preservation Services department at the Mount Holyoke College Library. While at MHC he led the digitization of hundreds of archival collections, and received his Masters in Library and Information Science from Simmons University.  He was the recipient of the Estelle Jussim award. In 2015 James began teaching LIS 471, Photographic Archives, as an adjunct professor at Simmons University. In 2020, he accepted a position as Compliance Consultant and Corporate Archivist in the Office of Information Governance at MassMutual. James continues his teaching and his personal photographic work which can be found at jamesgehrtphoto.com.


Header image: Examples of 19th century photographic processes. From left to right: tintype, wet plate collodion, albumen print, and gelatin dry plate. Image credit: Graphics Atlas (Image Permanence Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology).

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