Monday, August 26, 2013

Tintypes, more Maine and 100 year old negatives from Boston found

  I figure I should write another update before leaving the state of Maine later today.  I spent more time here than intended, but don't regret a second of it - I have come to love this place and hope to come back every opportunity that I get.

  As you may remember, the previous update was written from the town of Belfast.  After posting it I spent a quiet and uneventful night there and woke up rather early to make these two plates.


  After that I finally got myself to concentrate on something I should have done a bit ago and went to the post office to mail off postcards and prints that I owed to the supporters of the Indigogo funding campaign.  I am hugely grateful to all those who contributed as those funds came in really handy and provided diesel for the first 3.000 miles of this trip (by now I've done about 6.500 by the way).
  Shortly after that was done I got an email informing me that the trip has been written up by a popular blog called Ftoppers in a really nice little article for which I answered some questions via email earlier.  

  Driving out of Belfast to head farther north I stopped just before a town of Frankfort in their public boat launch site to make the two images below.  While I was making the second plate a really nice couple stopped by and said they had to turn around after seeing the bus and having read the article in Bangor Daily News.  I was happy to give them a tour and let them watch the creation of a tintype.


  After checking my email again I saw that a site called Film's Not Dead posted an article I wrote for them.  A little while back I was asked to be a featured writer for them and I thought that a perfect way to start was write about my personal history of involvement with analog photography and my love for it.  I think it turned out semi-coherent - you be the judge.  I look forward to writing more for that site in the near future (as soon as I can get some time off the road and can concentrate on writing).

  Next on the map was a town of Bangor and I got there too late to make any more exposures, so I went out to explore the town.  When I came back there was a lovely note stuck under the windshield wiper of the bus.  In it a woman by the name of Meg was saying that she read about the bus in Bangor Daily and expressed interest in learning more about it.  I went to sleep with a feeling that I should definitely call her in the morning.

  Upon waking I needed to go to the post office again as there were still more things to mail.  I called Meg and made plans for her to stop by the bus during lunch time.  Meanwhile I sent off the rest of what I had to mail and made the following tintypes right by the post office.


  Meg showed up soon afterward and brought a traditional Maine snack called 'whoopie-pie'  - an incredibly sugary treat consisting of a fluffy chocolaty dough with cream filling in the middle.  I was very grateful for that and devoured as much of it as my body could handle.
 


  Meg stuck me an intriguingly interesting person right off the bat.  She is a beautiful, well-spoken, world-traveling lady and we made plans for me to actually spend the night parked by her place in Orono.  I was to meet her there a bit later in the day as she had to go back to work and so I had time around Bangor before then to make these two plates happen.



  Later that evening I met up with Meg and we went out to a tiny little place right in Orono where a good band was playing some string instruments.  Here you can see Meg as she jumped in to sing some vocals in one of the songs.

  The party went into the street afterward and we had a great time singing along to Bob Dylan and many other favorites.  
  In the morning meg actually had to move to a new place, so I let her do that without any further distractions and headed back to Bangor after we made it a plan that she would come there in the evening for a dinner with me.
  In Bangor I again drove about town captured the following images.




  Megan (as is her full name) came by as the evening was descending upon the town and we went out for a really nice Thai meal and had a great time chatting.  Apparently we were in Nepal in 2007 at the exact same time!  What a small cool world it is!  Meg expressed interest in buying of my tintypes and I truly enjoyed her company and energy, so I asked if she would meet me in morning so I could make a tintype portrait of her.   She agreed and the next morning we held a little portrait session - I gave her one plate and kept this one.

  I must admit that I have not met anyone this intriguing to my heart in a long long time, so I plan to see her again as soon as humanly possible.  She is actually setting off to go travel in Laos in a little bit, so I wish her the very best on her trip and will keep all my fingers crossed in hopes of safe return and our speedy reunion thereafter.

  After we said our goodbyes I finally started to move back in the southern direction.  This truly marked the half-way point in this years cross-country adventure and gave me new inspiration and energy.  I was on my way back to Portland.  On the way stopped in towns of Newport and Augusta to make two plates at each location.




  I got to Portland as the sun was setting, which provided for some interesting contrast.


  The following morning I parked right on Congress street (the main street in Portland and waited for a couple of visitors to stop by.  I was expecting three people - Nathan (who contacted me after learning of my adventure and wanted to see the bus), Yuri (who happens to be on vaction here now, but normally lives in D.C. area and had set up quite a wonderful little tintype experience series there
for September) and Eric (who emailed me earlier saying that he had some glass plate negatives taken around Boston area that he wanted to get my opinion on).  Of course all three of them showed up at the exact same time and we had a nice little hangout.  Nathan was intrigued by the bus and enjoyed the short tour.  Yuri was kind enough to bring me some 4x5 sleeves and a negative storage box - I will use that to store the plates and hope they survive the journey back to San Diego.  Yuri was also one of the supporters of my indigogo campaign and he was one the two people who chose the level of contribution the reward for which was a tintype, so I gave him one of the anniversary shots of Gilli that you can see in the previous post.
  It was Eric who really had something special though.   Apparently Eric's family bought a house in 1955 and have not poked around the attic for many decades.  About 15 years ago though they went up there and did discover two boxes filled with over 100 5x7 glass negatives in original sleeves with captions indicating that they were done in the greater Boston area.  Eric said that the original sleeves were falling apart in his hands as the condition in the attic was nowhere near archival. Knowing that he was holding a small piece of history Eric was careful and attentive enough to place the negatives into new envelopes, transfer the captions and numbers on them and also to cut out the label from the original envelopes and keep them with the respective negatives as well.  The name of the photographer is still being investigated, but in the images there are a lot of shots of local parks, streets and individual houses.  From a few of the plates Eric was able to approximate the time period when they were made as being 1910s.  The quality of images is very high, but I must say that being in an attic for somewhere between 60 and 80 years did wreak havoc on their condition.  Some have emulsion damage and most all of them have traces of or full paper masks that the original photographer GLUED onto the EMULSION side in order to mask the negative for printing!  I don't think that was a standard practice of professionals...  When I saw them though I could not help but thinking that having them in my possession would open up a perfect opportunity for a short re-photographing project and that in-turn would serve as practice for the large project of the same nature that I am planning to do in 2017 using the Magic Lantern slides from Russia, a post about which is currently enjoying world-wide popularity.  After a long talk Eric did decide to sell me the negatives with the condition that I would send him some prints of them when I get home and get to my AZO paper.  Now I need to: contact some people with questions about conserving the plates and removing the dreaded paper from them,  get in touch with Boston area historians to find out where the locations are and save up some money for a trip there involving a 5x7 camera.  Here are 5 of the images - copied VERY poorly - the originals are very sharp (as one would expect from a 5x7 glass plate of course), but these were copied with no tripod and with a cheap point and shoot Samsung digital.  This low quality copying was done intentionally in order to save the uniqueness of real experience of viewing the images for later when, after the re-photographing project is complete, they will be either shown in a gallery or published in a book (or both if I'm lucky).





    This was all yesterday and in the evening I had plans to meet Katie.  She met me online via Troy R. Bennett and was one of his models.   After adding me as a friend she posted a double exposure of a man in a bottle and was wondering if someone knew how to do that and would create an image of her inside of a bottle given to her by her grandfather.  Knowing that I have that capability I responded and we made plans for me to spend the night at the apartment of her and her boyfriend.  We met about 4 and immediately started working on the shoot.  I must admit that other than the rarher random method of using multiple exposures for my Double Vision seies I have only done multiple camera work in studio before and those studios were well stocked with lights, backgrounds and all the props needed for a creation of a clean professional image.  This time I had o work outdoors and my only backdrop was to be a red sheet about 5x6.5 ft.  Needless to say that is not really enough to pose a fill-body portrait on AND to also have a still-life ready to go as well....  We did one test plate and then came up with the following two.  The first one I left with Katie and kept the second.  I think we did OK considering the circumstances.

 
  Katie and her boyfriend Ryan were a really great company for the evening and Katie did make some absolutely splendid pasta, for which I was very grateful.   
  While varnishing the plate I was to leave with her another very interesting occurrence took place.  A fellow by the name of David Gaines stopped by the bus and said that he remembered the bus from the time I was in Portland last year and that he had a nice print of Gilli that I may be interested in seeing.  I can't say no to such an offer and David went two houses down to his home to get it.  I must say that I have seen a lot of pictures of Gilli done all over the place, but it's rare that one actually truly impresses me and it's even more rare to see an actual hard copy print.  When David came back he carried with him a complete treat!  On the presentation table of the bus he laid a beautifully executed large print that was also very well matted.  I remember very being parked at that spot in front of the old library building, but was unaware how cool Gilli actually looked in combination with the architecture.  I'm very glad that David was more aware of it and captured this image.  The curtains being drawn indicate that this is taken relatively early in the morning and I am still peacefully asleep in there.
  I offered David a trade - that print for a tintype portrait of him to be done in the morning.  He agreed and now I'm a happy owner of this stunning image - it's going on the wall at home as soon as I get back!  Unfortunately in the morning David showed up to tell me that he has been called into work, so I'll have to mail him a plate from my travels as a trade.


  Now that we are all caught up I am going to take off farther south.  In a few days I'm meeting with my friend Justin at his mom's farm in New Jersey, but until then there are still plenty of images to be made!

Anton Orlov

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