I have a love hate relationship with cameras. I dislike being in front of the lens, but I very much enjoy being behind it. I enjoy making new pictures look old and other creative processes. My cousin, a professional photographer, took my headshots for me last year. You can see the setting I put it in, an image of an antique cabinet card and then I embellished it at Pixlr, one of my favorite online photo editing tools.
Below you’ll see a photo I took of antique children’s shoes that I own. The picture of the mounted figurehead is one that I took on a research trip to Mystic Seaport, CT for my newest release, Colonial Courtships. I took the photo in the corral of my neighbor in Maine’s farm while the horses were watching a herd of deer leave after their daily visit. You can see some of my other photographs online at http://500px.com/carlagade.
Photography is a favorite hobby that many generations in my family have enjoyed. And thus, we have tons of pictures; a visual record of the past. Recently some relatives and I were sifting through a bunch of old photos trying to place the who and the where. When my Mom’s cousin began asking me my take on when some of the photos were taken, based on the type of photography that was used, I was stymied. She’d read my debut novel, The Shadow Catcher’s Daughter, that features a female photographer, set in western Colorado in 1875. Since I had done so much research on 19th century photography methods for the book, I was suddenly being hailed as an expert on the topic. Go figure.
We all had a great time trying to solve the photographic mysteries, but much to my surprise I realized I had learned more than I thought from all of that research. I never imagined it would be useful in a practical way. We found a little picture of Grandpa Currier (yes, as in Currier & Ives – his cousins), but who’s grandpa was it. I deduced that the photo was a tintype from about the year of my story, 1875. It fit perfectly with the age of Grandpa Currier, being my great-grandmother’s grandfather. The tiny photo is called a “gem”, made with a multiplying camera that used several lenses in order to produce multiple photographs. Gems were divided up and mounted in jewelry, a small frame, or a stamped paper sleeve.
Photography was an important element in my novel and I relied heavy on historic photos to help me plot The Shadow Catcher’s Daughter. Shadow Catcher is what the Native Americans called photographers and the title is significant since the hero in the story in half-Navajo. The story’s heroine, Eliana Van Horn, is her father’s photography assistant. She dresses like a young man as they travel the untamed western slope of Colorado visually documenting the mining outfits for the U. S. Land Grant Office. Photographs taken of many of the thriving mining towns are all that exist today. Van Horn Photography later is commissioned to be the official photographer of a survey expedition to set the territory boundary lines at the four corners. The actual survey occurred in 1875 and similar ones were led which provided photographic references with which I could better envision my novel. The photographs below are some that I imagined the Van Horn’s took on the field using the gelatin dry plate silver bromide process so that negatives did not need to be developed immediately. To see more images that I used for inspiration and research for The Shadow Catcher’s Daughter please visit my Pinterest page, http://pinterest.com/carlaolsongade/the-shadow-catcher-s-daughter/.
Writers: Are photos helpful to you when plotting? All: Do you have any special family photographs? Please leave a comment to be eligible to win a copy of The Shadow Catcher’s Daughter. There will be two winners!