Wednesday, 22 July 2020

French man develops 120-year-old photos he finds in time capsule

French man develops 120-year-old photos he finds in time capsule

An article that combines two of this blog's bread-and-butter stories now - the discovery of a century-old time capsule and the use of a period method to reconstruct an aspect of the past.

In this instance the hidden box was found in the family home of French photographer and video-maker Mathieu Stern and which somewhat serendipitiously contained several glass negative photographic plates.  Inspired by these previously-unseen slides M. Stern has made full use of his photographic know-how to recreate the images therein using a traditional 19th century process called Cyanotype, to produce a couple of charming pictures that offer a literal snapshot into a little piece of 1900s life.

source - Mathieu Stern

The life was that of a little girl (age unknown) who, judging by what is shown in the accompanying video, clearly took the concept of a time capsule to heart by including all sorts of ephemera from the turn of the last century such as paper cutouts, a coin/medal, pillbox, nib pen and sea shell - not forgetting the aforementioned glass plates.  The contents of the charming little box - which is equally as beautiful - offer a fascinating glimpse into the existence of a young child at the beginning of the 20th century.  Clearly all these things were of great importance to this young girl that she kept them so safe and in such good condition; just as obvious is the emotional attachment of the photographs' subject matter - her pet cats and dog.

source - Mathieu Stern
As M. Stern and others commentators have stated, these images are a wonderful reminder that pets - and especially cats - have been an integral part of [young] people's lives for centuries and the concept of capturing their likenesses for posterity is nothing new - only the medium and devices used have changed in the last 120 years.  One has to wonder if historians in 2140 will be able to look back at images taken on iPhones and the like with quite the same degree of appreciation as us looking at this girl's efforts (or will things get increasingly worse in the next 120 years...?).

In any event M. Stern is to be applauded for preserving these delightful photos and their lovely subjects for posterity while using a photographic technique appropriate to the time and one that would not have been unknown to the original photographer when she took these remarkably contemporary pictures of her beloved companions.  One hope that he will cherish not only the pictures but also the other contents and that this particular time capsule will not be forgotten for another century.

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