Monday, January 27, 2014

In the Field and at Home

After sorting and sleeving over 120 glass plates I am finding that Kinney had diverse photographic interests. It seems that this part of the collection, that is unprocessed in the MHC Archives, contains more of his personal work. The plates that are accessioned and in the archives' stacks are primarily campus views, group images, and interiors. The subjects in the past 12 boxes, include his home garden, his family, his plant experiments, wild plants, surrounding community and church events, and copy photography of older prints.

Today's processing included boxes 10, 11, and 12. All of these boxes were not sleeved and had no interesting pages between the negatives. Box ten contained some quiet scenes from his home garden. There were 12 plates of the rocks, trees, and natural landscaping around his house.

Warning! This next paragraph is very technical. Feel free to skip ahead...

This first plate is a good example of Kinney's camera skills when working with a 5x7 view camera. If you look closely, he was able to control the plane of focus to slice through the scene following the tree in the foreground across the the few rocks and back to the tree further away.  With slow glass plate film in his camera,  he  had to use a tripod, and while in the shade his lens would be set fairly wide open to let in more light. This would help to prevent long exposure speeds that keep increasing with what is called reciprocity failure. The longer you expose film, the more you will need to increase the time of exposure. Combined with the fact that larger format cameras have an even shallower depth of field from the use of longer focal length lenses, Kinney would have had just a 2 or three foot area in focus. If the lens plane was straight on to the subject the plane of focus would be perpendicular to the subject and limiting what would be in sharp focus. Kinney had to adjust the focus plane on his view camera to follow his subject. This is something that I love to look for in large format work.

All that tech talk aside, the images of his home garden feel very personal. They show a love of a space that is documented from varying vantage points and multiple times of day. They are quiet restful images that are meditative and filled with respect for nature.

Box 12 contained 10 plates from his daughter Elizabeth's wedding. The box did not have a date, just a scribble that noted the subject. The images are shot at his house. I have seen one particular structure in a number of images from around his property. Again, I am drawn to the shallow depth of field, that makes the subjects jump from the creamy soft background. At the same time the glass plates carefully capture every detail in the dresses. 

Box 12 was filled with plant images. The plates roughly followed this process: wild plants to cut and replanted, placed under glass and then labeled while placed in front of a white background. These images show how photography was an important tool in Kinney's botanical work. When I get to the lantern slide boxes later, he has many hand colored images of various plants and experiments. I do feel that these images go beyond mere documentation. The careful arrangement of the subject along with the "behind the scenes" view to his work makes the images feel more personal. I would love to know if there were any surviving notebooks that would describe some of the processes going on. 

I hope that this part of the collection will be digitized at some point. My project will focus on the accessioning of this material. The only work to be properly digitized will be the images that are selected for re-photography. I need to keep that scope of the project in mind so that I will stay on track with my time table. However, I will be an advocate for the future digitization of the collection. 

More to come...

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