Photography

Discovering Photography with Wiltshire People First

on Tuesday, 18 November 2014. Posted in Archives, Photography

October saw a wonderful new project associated with Lacock Unlocked, and the chance for some of our staff and volunteers to work with Wiltshire People First, a group for adults with learning disabilities, and a professional photographer Jamie, to understand about photography; how to use a high-quality digital SLR camera and take good quality photographs. The three workshops followed different patterns and allowed the members to learn about different aspects of photography, experiment with picture taking and be creative. The project will finish with an exhibition of three images taken and chosen by each member; those which they feel are the most successful photographs they took. The exhibition will take place on Friday 28th November in the Manger Barn at Lacock, and I would recommend anyone who is able to go and see what brilliant pictures have been taken and the improvements made throughout the three weeks of the workshops.

The project fitted with Lacock Unlocked perfectly as it allowed us to work with a wider community of people and having Lacock as the venue was great as we could all imagine ourselves in the shoes of William Henry Fox Talbot, a pioneer in photography who owned Lacock Abbey in the 19th century and developed the first negative image actually inside the abbey itself.

The first day of the project, held on a chilly autumnal day in early October, started with a “welcome” session where the group members got a chance to meet Rachael, the National Trust staff member helping lead the project, Terry and Ally from the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, David and Ronnie, our two volunteers, and Jamie McDine, the photographer. We also were able to meet Julie and Angie from Wiltshire People First. After some introductions, we went to the Fox Talbot Museum in Lacock, where Roger Watson, the curator, spent some time with the group explaining all about William Henry Fox Talbot and his early developments with photography. He showed us a replica of the camera obscura which Fox Talbot had invented, and explained how Fox Talbot’s hard work eventually led him to produce the negative image which became so important in the success of photography.

Sitting Pretty with Picture Postcards

on Saturday, 26 April 2014. Posted in Archives, Photography

With the help of our Sheldon 6th Form volunteer Laura Bailey and our work experience students we have been making great inroads into our vast collection of uncatalogued postcards from the early 20th century. The aim is to give each an entry on our electronic catalogue alongside a digital image to enable easy access for the public via the online site Wiltshire Treasures (see link at end of this article). At present we have over 4,000 postcards catalogued. I thought it would be interesting to discover a little more about the history of postcards in this country and just why they became so popular during this period.

How it all stems from... the Kilmersdon Railway

on Saturday, 09 November 2013. Posted in Photography

As part of one of our current Local Studies projects to house colour transparencies which the History Centre has been acquiring over many years, we are constantly trying to identify scenes and buildings that we hold no additional details for. This calls for a little detective work, perseverance, and sometimes even a little luck!

We are happy to welcome volunteers who kindly spend many a valuable hour with us working on various projects and collections. One such volunteer was happening by whilst I was looking at some unlocated railway photographs. He was fairly sure he recognised the railway as the Kilmesdon Railway, situated near Radstock in Somerset. With the help of our scanner to enlarge the image and were able to confirm that the set of images were indeed those of the Kilmserdon Railway.

On another occasion some volunteers from Salisbury were able to put names to the buildings contained within photographs of Salisbury. Another willing volunteer paid us a visit to help identify railway signal boxes and also gave us some helpful information leading to another two volunteers joining us to help index railway plans.

We try to make use of a myriad of local resources such as the wonderful and comprehensive Swindon Collection on flickr from the Local Studies section of Swindon Library. Their site helped us identify the Bakers Arms as being located on the Beechcroft Road in Upper Stratton.

This collaborative teamwork exists not only between colleagues here at the History Centre, but also with the volunteers who give up their time on our behalf. I hope this blog illustrates just some of the many reasons why we couldn't do without them!

Brian Shipp
Local Studies and Helpdesk Team

Discovering more than meets the eye: dating old photographs

on Friday, 17 May 2013. Posted in Photography

How often do we discover old photographs or family albums tucked away or which have recently come into our possession but which frustratingly contain little or no information about their subjects? It is possible to discover more about these images than meets the eye, if you know what to look out for.
I hope that the following suggestions will be helpful when looking at clothing but the most important element is to look carefully, analysing each small detail. Everything within the photo is a clue to help us in the process of indentifying our ancestors.

The photographic process developed through the nineteenth century and must have had a tremendous effect on a family, as they began making up their first family albums and displaying images of each other. The type of pose can be an indication of period; the 1850s and 1860s tend to include a full length figure, sometimes seated, but by the 1870s the camera was moving closer to the person, perhaps producing a three quarter length image and including a prop, such as a lectern or a chair. By the 1890s the head and shoulders shot became more common. A ‘vignette’ where the background is white and the head and shoulders are almost oval in shape is also typical of the 1890s.

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