Tuesday, March 23, 2010
In the 21st century, a professional photographer’s studio contains no windows. Light is a carefully manipulated element of each image, altered using a host of modern tools. Before electricity and the electronic flash, a 19th century photographer relied on the power of the sun to light his subject. In Sandusky and across the nation, photographers’ studios were often located on the top floors of buildings, the better to take advantage of natural sunlight.
This unusual view of C.J. Pascoe’s Sandusky photography studio gives a modern viewer insight on the tricks of the photography trade in the late 1800s. The rooftop skylight is filtered using a gauzy white cloth. Large white boards mounted on movable stands were used to bounce light on the subject. A decorative backdrop is at the rear of the studio. Several different chairs are located around the studio, along with an ornate footstool and a plush rug on the floor. A decorative pedestal is stowed in the left rear corner of the studio. If you look carefully on the left side of the studio, you will see three floor mounted stands. Early film required a long exposure, and these stands helped a subject keep still while holding a pose. You’ll notice that two of the chairs have padded armrests, which also helped the subject remain still during the exposure. On the right side of the studio, there is a large wood burning stove, used in the days before central heating. Near the center of the image is the tool of the trade—the camera. This appears to be a larger format glass plate camera which is mounted on a wooden tripod. Glass plates produced remarkably clear and detailed images.