Timeless Travel
Images Made With History In Mind Page 2

Many were contact prints from large format. You don't need to use large format, though you may prefer to, because it has a special look all of its own. Instead, you can re-create that special creamy tonality by keeping your enlargements small. A 5x7" enlargement from 35mm film has a different tonality than an 8x10" enlargement from the same negative. Also, most pictures from the past are not very big. Making a big enlargement immediately fixes the picture in the present.

It is possible (though very difficult) to create timeless color pictures. It is somewhat easier to re-create specific color renditions from the past. Lumiere Autochromes were introduced in 1907, a bit after the Album vom Rhein was published, but you can re-create their distinctive "look" relatively easy in Adobe Photoshop or similar image-manipulation programs: in Photoshop, you'd use the "noise" and possibly "film grain" filters, and desaturate somewhat as well. But they would not be timeless in the same way as monochrome. They would be tied to a specific time almost as closely as a photograph with a newspaper headline about the Russo-Japanese War.

Chateau, Berrie. This part-ruined chateau is the home of a wine cooperative some 20 or 30 miles from where we live. We came across it by accident. Again, the Victorians loved picturesque decay, and this qualifies. There is a power cable overhead but it doesn't really dominate the picture. I could take it out in Adobe Photoshop--some people would--but that would destroy the essential truthfulness which is central to a timeless picture. (Voigtländer Bessa-R2, 35mm f/2.5 Color-Skopar, Paterson Acupan 200 at 160 in Paterson FX-39.)

I say "monochrome" because "black and white" is not the half of it. Vintage pictures were often heavily toned, usually sepia, but sometimes with selenium, tellurium, gold, or even with platinum emulsion. Do the same. In a way, sepia is a cliché for "timeless," but do not always despise clichés. As Terry Pratchett said, they are the well-worn screwdrivers and hammers in the toolbox of communication. All the pictures accompanying this article were printed on Ilford Multigrade Warmtone toned in Tetenal Triponaltoner or Tetenal Schwefeltoner.

Of course, timeless photography won't suit everyone or everywhere. Bright, colorful, action shots may suit you or your subjects better. That's fine. But if timeless shots do appeal to you, they are even easier to create today than they were 100 years ago. We have more choice of film, greater control over processing, and better materials for printing.

And here is what I hope. My great-niece Lilith is just over a year old. But one day, with any luck, 100 or more years after I first became fascinated with the Album vom Rhein, another little 5-year-old girl will be looking at the Album vom Rhein and perhaps at my pictures, too. She will be fascinated, and decide that she wants to travel and to take pictures. Then her Grandma Lilith will tell her about Grandma's great-aunt Frances who made the same choice. And my great-great-great niece will see the Rhein; and maybe Mars.