See Reverse

Recently, I have been trying to organize and restore some old family photographs. The lot of photographs includes some cabinet cards made before the family left the Russian Empire. Aside from my own history, one thing that interests me is the attention to design and craftsmanship of the cabinet cards. A photograph was not simply a snapshot, it was a handheld monument, and it is easy to see by just looking at the reverse of these cards. Beautifully engraved plates containing the photographer’s name and the location of the portrait studio accompany illustrations of a photographic muse and homages to the patriarchs of photography: Talbot, Daguerre, and Niépce. They are much different than the photo-back datestamp on your one-hour photo prints. There is a certain pride and authenticity to these photographic objects that I do not feel is accessible today. The village photographer- the keeper of memories, the recorder of history, a silent storyteller… the giver. My thoughts serve as my quiet thank you to the unsung heroes- the village photographers; as they pay their respects to the fathers of photography on the back of their images, I owe my investment in photography to them.

backphotocards.jpg

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