Because I've always felt a wonder at old photographs not easy to explain. Maybe I don't need to explain; maybe you'll recognize what I mean. I mean the sense of wonder, staring at the strange clothes and vanished backgrounds, at knowing that what you're seeing was once real. That light really did reflect into a lens from these lost faces and objects. That these people were really there once, smiling into a camera. You could have walked into the scene then, touched those people, and spoken to them. You could actually have gone into that strange outmoded old building and seen what now you never can - what was just inside the door.

The wonder is even stronger with old stereoscopic views - the almost, but not quite, identical pair of photographs mounted side by side on stiff cardboard, that, looked at through the viewer, give a miraculous effect of depth. It's never been a mystery to me why the whole country was once crazy about them. Because the good ones, the really clear sharp photographs, are so real: Insert a view, slide it into focus, and the old scene leaps out at you, astonishingly three-dimensional. And then, for me, the awe becomes intense. Because now you really see the arrested moment, so actual it seems that if you watch intently, the life caught here must continue. That the raised horse's hoof so startlingly distinct in the foreground must move down to the solidness of pavement below it again; those carriage wheels revolve, the girl walk closer, the man move on out of the scene. The feeling that the tantalizing reality of the vanished moment might somehow be seized - that if you watch long enough you might detect that first nearly imperceptible movement - is the answer to the question Kate has asked me more than once: "How can you sit there so long--you hardly move! - staring endlessly at the very same picture?"

17 October, 2016

Brighton Photographer "L" - William Lane

William LANE

Here is another CDV (carte de visite) from my collection of Brighton photographers, and this time with the added interest of the photographer's advertising token which I managed to purchase recently. 

Tokens, such as this one produced for William Lane, were inexpensive to manufacture, and preferred by some professionals because they were much more sturdy than business cards.

Lane was at 213 Western Road, Brighton, from 1853 to 1862, so that helps to date the photograph. The lady does not look as if she was too keen to have her portrait taken, but these were early days for CDVs, which did not really become popular in France, their country of origin, until 1859, so perhaps she did not fully understand the process.

If you would like to find out more about William Lane, I cannot recommend highly enough the wonderful Sussex Photo History website's two pages of information: 

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