Monday, August 22, 2016

Photos of Cobalt and Sudbury (book reviews)

     Two Photo Album reprints: 1894 Souvenir of Sudbury & Cobalt the Silver City. (1981) Exactly what the titles promise, collections of photographs originally issued to boost the images of Sudbury and Cobalt, and attract settlers and investment. The original photographs show the care that went into making these expensive objects. A full plate (5"x7") photographic print cost about half a day’s typical pay. The photographers couldn’t afford to make technically poor negatives or unpleasing images.
     Composition is always workmanlike and often pleasing. Many of the photos show people lined up in front of buildings: an opportunity to have your picture taken for a low price was rare. Most of the pictures show banks and stores, and public buildings such as schools. The signage is sometimes overdone to our eyes: a wall was a great place to catalogue merchandise. There are a few interior shots. All pictures repay close study. One thing I noticed was unpaved roads bordered by wooden sidewalks. The pictures of mines include enough detail for a building models or dioramas.
     Exposure and development was calculated to provide a nice gradation from black to white, with the maximum of detail in the shadows and the highlights. Unfortunately, reprinting printed images always degrades the quality, and both albums suffer from the effects of making photographic copies of halftones. The Cobalt album is somewhat muddy, the Sudbury one somewhat pale. Both will join my modest collection local history books. **½

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