Laurie Kingery: OLD-TIME PHOTOGRAPHY

laurie_kingeryI’ve long desired to write a western historical with a lady photographer, but while I was writing them as Laurie Grant, the time never seemed to come. Now that I’m writing inspirational western historicals for Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historicals, the time finally came, and THE OUTLAW’S LADY is now out.

My heroine, Tess Hennessy, living in the Rio Grande valley of South Texas in the 1880’s, is a lady with a camera. Using his daguerreotype camera, she has always wanted to follow in the footsteps of her uncle, who was one of Mathew Brady’s photographers in the Civil War. But her mother, naturally enough, wants her to act like the young lady she is and make a fine marriage with a proper gentleman. But how is Tess to do so, Mrs. Hennessy despairs, if she is always traipsing around with a bulky camera and staining her clothes with nasty developing chemicals? It will take a special hero to appreciate the fiery Tess, but of course I provided her with such a man—Sandoval Parrish, a half-Mexican, half-Texan who may or may not be an outlaw with Delgado’s infamous gang of Mexican raiders who wreak havoc along the border. Sandoval is a man with at least two secrets, one of which haunts him and drives his desire for vengeance.

100_0801My research for this book was fascinating. We have it so easy these days with tiny digital cameras, loading our pictures onto computers and elsewhere in less time than it took to write this sentence. We have the ability to crop and enhance them, print them in color or black and white, even sepia, caption them, make videos—the possibilities are endless! But it was not always so. The cameras of yesterday required the ability of its subjects to hold still for at least 15-30 seconds. Action shots were impossible—all that registered was a blur. No wonder the people in portraits of that era looked so stiff!

100_0798A camera such as those used in the Civil War, and by my heroine, was a bulky affair, and if the photographer desired to develop his pictures on the spot, it had to be transported with its bottles of chemicals on a little cart complete with a leather or canvas hood over it to provide “darkroom” conditions. When Tess is forced into accompanying the infamous bandit on his exploits to make a photographic record, her “What-Is-It Wagon” must accompany her, and she has to make him understand that she can only take “still shots”—photographs of him and his banditos in action are not feasible. But he is perfectly content to pose of pictures with his booty, and have her use her drawing ability for the rest.

100_0784Old-time photographers of this era used the “wet collodion” process—glass plates were prepared with solutions of collodion, a thick liquid which left a thin transparent film, then dipped in silver nitrate to make the plate sensitive to light. While the plates were still wet (they had to be used within the hour), the photographer placed it into the camera, exposed it while the camera was aimed at his subjects, developed it, and washed it with water. When the negative, which developed it, was dry, it was placed on a sheet of light-sensitive paper and exposed to the sun. Finally this paper was developed, fixed, and washed, and voilà, a photograph!

the_outlaws_lady_coverI was fortunate enough to do a research trip to Texas for this book and for my upcoming series, “The Simpson Creek Spinsters.” We also went to Big Bend. Imagine my surprise when comparing the cover of THE OUTLAW’S LADY—easily the most beautiful, most scenic cover of my career–to a picture of me standing on the bank of the Rio Grande by the Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend revealed that the artist used this exact spot! How cool is that? I had to contact the artist and praise him, of course.

I hope you will enjoy reading THE OUTLAW’S LADY as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thanks, Petticoats and Pistols, for giving me this opportunity to write about this subject and this book!

Blessings, Laurie Kingery
www.lauriekingery.com

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21 thoughts on “Laurie Kingery: OLD-TIME PHOTOGRAPHY”

  1. Good morning, Laurie. I picked up a copy of The Outlaw’s Lady last night and can’t wait to read it!

    I’m amazed and delighted that your artist used the spot you’d visited to create your gorgeous cover! Did you mention the location in your scene description?

    Thanks for the information on how those old cameras worked. I can’t imagine how photographers got babies to sit still. I know they used neck braces, but what baby would tolerate that? 🙂 We have a daguerreotype image of a family member, but I think it’s printed on tin. Does that make any sense? I maybe thinking of another picture.

    Janet

  2. Hi Laurie, Welcome to Petticoats & Pistols! I’m with Janet . . . how cool that the artist used your photograph! It’s a great cover. I got the book a few weeks ago from the LIH book club and am looking forward to the story.

    Photography is a wonderful mix of magic and artistry. My husband did it professionally for a while, the usual assortment of weddings and events. He used an old Nikon F. Now that thing’s an antique. I’m looking forward to meeting your heroine! The hero too!

  3. Hi Laurie,

    Welcome back to P&P! It’s always a delight to have you come visit. This is such an interesting subject too. Photography is such an unusual profession to give your heroine. I can’t remember ever reading a book with a heroine who’s passion is photography. That alone is reason enough for me to buy your book, which I intend to do the next time I get to town.

    I’m a Texan through and through and have been to Big Bend a few times. Like you said, it’s really gorgeous. However I prefer the Hill Country in the summer months. Temps really get up there in the Big Bend area. I’m blown away by the fact the artist used your photo to design the book cover! Wow! That’s really, really special. I’d love to have that happen to me.

    Hope you have a great day here!

  4. Laurie,

    I can’t think of anything more cool than standing in the same spot as the cover of your book. How awesome is that!!

    Loved, loved reading about your photography research. Just yesterday, I wrote my first ever photograph scene with my heroine, but since it’s a later 1800’s time period, she used a Kodak, which was all the rage at the time. And much easier than what your heroine had to use. (The book will be out next year.)

    Fascinating stuff!

  5. Cheryl St. John and all the other ladies of P &P, thanks so much for this opportunity to talk about THE OUTLAW’S LADY and old-time photography!

    Linda Broday, I’m reading KNIGHT ON THE TEXAS PLAINS right now! I’d bought that and THE COWBOY WHO CAME CALLING when they came out, but they’d gotten buried in my TBR pile. I recently fished them out and I’m kicking myself now for not having read them sooner! I’m a native Texan,living in Ohio, but like you I really prefer the Hill Country.I’m so thrilled you liked HILL COUNTRY CHRISTMAS.

    Hi Janet Dean and Vickie Bylin! It was entirely by accident that the artist used the very place I’d stood in Big Bend for the cover scene. He got general information on the locale from what we input into the eHERS system for Love Inspired, and the cover was done and the draft of it sent to me before we went there. I recognized it when we looked at pictures from that day, though–what a thrill! Actually most of the action in the book takes place a bit south of there, but I certain mention high canyon walls and crossing the Rio Grande in the book.
    Janet, they used to call old-time photos “tintypes”–maybe that’s what your old family photograph is?
    Melinda Elmore, would love to be interviewed on your blog!
    Pam Crooks, I’d love to read your book when it comes out–please let me know.Have you read Jane Kirkpatrick’s A FLICKERING LIGHT? It’s about a lady photographer in the late 1800’s too–I think you’d find it interesting.
    Thanks everyone who visited and commented. I really love coming on P &P!

  6. Way too cool to be in the same spot. I love inspirational historical romances. This one sounds good as well. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Hi Laurie! Thanks for the informative post! That is very cool that you got a pic at the spot the cover artist used! Very nice cover too. I like stories of lady journalists (which was my direction before I went on to law school). I had to go to your web and check the backlist as I recognized LG. Yep – I read My Lady Reluctant! I look forward to more good reads from you in inspirational western historicals! Best wishes on the new release!

  8. Hi, Laurie!

    What a great post! The information you unearthed about early photography is amazing. It really makes you appreciate what we have today.

    The Outlaw’s Lady also sounds intriguing. Another winner!

    Best!

    Patricia

  9. Hi Laurie, Loved the photos, the cover and the information. My uncle had a dark room in the basement of my grandfather’s home and I was facinated by it. I have had several different cameras since that time. Some have to antiques by now as the were used when I started with them at least 50 years ago. I had admired your cover when I saw it online but now will be buying it.

  10. I’ve always been fascinated by old photographs, especially those from the American West. Can’t imagine “running” with an outlaw with all that equipment! Thanks for the info on the process.

    LIH has such lovely covers. The stories I’ve read are even better. 😉

    Ooo, that upcoming series sounds intriguing.

    take care, pamb

  11. Welcome Laurie,I love old photos,we had ours made to look old an they turned out great,but I have some old family photos that I have framed that I just love,espically the tin type ones,thanks for your post

  12. The cover is lovely, as is the location. My husband and I had planned to go to Big Bend Park when in Ft. Worth for a reunion in October. Not enough time. It is a bit too far to really do justice to visiting the area in the short time we would have. Will have to go back when we can spend a week.
    Went to an auction once where they had two boxes of glass negatives. Wish I could have gotten a few. When you consider how labor intensive a d difficult photography was back then, it makes the good pictures that were taken all the more impressive.
    I’m sure THE OUTLAW’S LADY will be as good as the cover.

  13. Hi Laurie,

    I love that your heroine is a photographer. How interesting. I love old photos and imagining the lives the subjects lived. The cover of The Outlaw’s Lady is gorgeous, too. 🙂

  14. Amazing cover, and what a wonderful coincidence!
    In doing research for my writing a couple of years ago, I looked through hundreds of Civil War photographs on-line. What a story they tell. A hundred and fifty years later, they haven’t lost their impact.
    I can’t imagine getting children to sit still for those old-time photos. I’ve always loathed having my picture taken. What a great profession to choose for your heroine.

  15. Laurie,

    I can’t believe you’re reading Knight on the Texas Plains! I’m always thrilled when someone says they like my work. Thank you so much for the kind words. And I hope you enjoy The Cowboy Who Came Calling. It’s a sequel to Knight.

    I wish you lots of success with The Outlaw’s Lady!

  16. Thank you for being our guest, Laurie. I loved your topic and blog.

    I have a book on the early photography of the Grand Canyon, when the government hired photographers and they had to use pack mules up and down the mountain trails to carry all their glass plates and chemicals. I keep planning to do a photographer character, but haven’t found the right story yet.

    Can’t wait to read yours.
    Cher 🙂

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