Life on Lake Michigan at the Turn of the Twentieth Century – glass plate negatives made into large format prints
05/16/2013 7 Comments
I became obsessed with UW-Parkside Archive’s collection of dry plate negatives last year when director Anna Stadick shared them with me. I determined to scan, print and research a group of the negatives for a little show at the Parkside gallery. We have just installed an exhibition of large format digital photographs pulled from high quality scans of the original negatives that date to 188os to early 1900s. These photos primarily show beautiful boats on the Lake Michigan, but there are a few other subjects as well. Enjoy this slide show and vista Parkside’s E. H. Mathis Gallery located in the theatre lobby if you can.
By researching the names of the vessels mentioned in the index to the slidesI found that many of the ships shown were well-known racing yachts at the time. I had no idea that yacht racing was a popular spectator sport at the turn of the century, and that the Lake Michigan Yachting Association hosted a regatta in 1901 that sailed between Chicago and Kenosha. The images are marvelous.
What is a Dry Plate negative?
The Dry Plate process was first invented in 1871. It replaced a messy and time-sensitive process that required the application of wet chemicals (wet collodion) to a glass plate minutes before a photograph was taken. This means that before the Dry Plate process, a photographer could not take a photograph without having a “dark room” to create a light sensitive “Wet Plate” for use in his or her camera. The Dry Plate process made photography much easier because the light-sensitive silver gelatin emulsion was applied and allowed to dry on the plate before it was used by a photographer. A photographer could simply carry dry plates and load them into a camera to take a photograph. By the 1880s factory-made silver gelatin dry plates were widely available, and this brought photography to a wide audience of amateur practitioners. Glass plate photography began to decline when flexible roll film was invented and it virtually disappeared by the mid-1920s, replaced by George Eastman Kodak cameras that used only flexible roll film. (from the galley website)