Feeding back to the List on the responses I received to my recent query:
"Recently an unusual photographic image was brought in to the National Library
New Zealand's National Preservation Office. The image looks exactly like a
bare, bent tintype but is in fact a positive collodion photograph on heavy
paper... No one we've contacted has seen an positive collodion image on
lacquered paper before. Any idea/experience with how this image might have been
displayed? We would very much welcome any further information."
It seems most likely that the image is a collodion transfer - thanks Tony
Richards (who is fittingly from the UK where the image in question most likely
"Have you considered a collodion lift or transfer, this was practiced by some
Victorian photographers. The image would have originally been shot on glass
then the emulsion lifted off in one piece and transferred to another substrate,
paper, leather wood etc.
Excellent info here.
Gawain Weaver commented:
"There was a direct positive silver gelatin paper with a black varnish layer
and a white-ish silver image that was made in the 1930s by the Chicago
Ferrotype Co. It was intended to mimic a tintype. [Ruth's] print doesn't look
like one those though. [Ruth's print] looks more like an actual collodion image
on paper- which could have been a local and unique process as it is very easy
Three people had examples of a similar type of process that dated from the
early to late 1930s. After swapping and comparing these images by email they
were found to be visibly different from the image I was asking about:
>From Karen Pavelka
"I have three of these in my teaching collection, but from a much later period.
One is dated 1932, one 1939 and one with no date but the clothing suggests a
similar time period. I had a fourth but gave it to a photo conservator who had
never seen one before. They are in paper mounts so I can't see the back. One
has several areas of delamination; two are very gray, one appears very
metallic. I'll send you images tomorrow morning."
And from Kim Du Boise:
"We had a small one in a collection that we worked on in 2012. The particular
photo was of the mother as a girl at what appeared to be a fair or circus of
some kind. The date was written as "1930". At that time, according to the
records we had, the item would have been made somewhere in Georgia or South
We had seen items with similar subject matter and the owners/subjects told us
how or when they were taken. They said "street" photographers offered souvenir
photos taken in a certain place or event for sale. These were relatively
cheaply made and the paper supported photo was colored black paper of
heavyweight stock, not japanned, but varnished overall to resist liquid
processing. We have also seen these as tintypes with the emulsion in very poor
What is the size of the collodion photo you have? The size we had was about
the size of a wallet photo. This photographer may have had a multiple exposure
(4 shots) in a 4x5 size holder, as it was similar to the size of images made on
glass plate negatives that we had seen. We also suspected this as it did not
have any marks from being held during a pour. It was darkened overall and had
sufficient, but thin, emulsion coverage with no breaks or silvering.
There was no paper/card stock folder with it. It was found in an album
attached with paper corners. The back of it was clear of any adhesives.
However, we have seen some that were glued to paper folders or into photo
albums. This may be something similar to what is on the back of the photo you
Due to the age of the photo, it is possible this was presented first in a form
of cased object? Cases are often damaged or missing on the ones we get here;
perhaps it was remounted in a folder at some point? I can only give you what
we have seen in the southeast United States & hope it will help you."
"[The 1930s] examples both look like Mandel's Positive Process (the Chicago
Ferrotype Co. process I already mentioned). Here's an example of one in my
collection that has in the identifying info on the post card back. I'm not
aware of any other manufacturer than Chicago Ferrotype Co of this process, but
I've never looked into it closely. I just collect them all in a box which waits
for an intern with interest."
Thanks everyone to taking to time to help out with this; it will mean a lot to
the owner to know a little more about the image. And it's always good to see
something a little out of the ordinary.
Ruth Oliver | Photographs Conservator | Collection Care |
Alexander Turnbull Library | Direct Dial: +64 4 462 3987 | Collection Care Lab:
+64 4 474 3160; or ext.4960 |
National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa |
http://www.natlib.govt.nz<http://www.natlib.govt.nz/> | Department of Internal
Affairs Te Tari Taiwhenua
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