The Hand in the Pocket

Years ago, I worked with some newspaper staff who handled the technical side of production (so not journalists) and they had to process the news pictures taken by the photographers. I can clearly recall one old guy in absolute ecstasy over a photo, taken in the 'fifties in an industrial city, of people lining up for the train to go on vacation. The man was gushing about the level of detail in that black-and-white photo, how clear and sharp the detail was -- just I think like the example you give. He contrasted it with a more modern picture and pointed out how the recent photo was full of action but it was generally flat and lacking crisp information. So you are right: our multitude of digital images today will leave little to see.

Posted by UKer at June 26, 2016 5:23 AM

Most people have the idea that early photography produced very crude images. Not particularly so! Very quickly the photosensitive chemicals were applied to silver or glass plates and those were capable of amazing detail. Lenses had been around for centuries and highly developed by the time photography came along so there was no problem there. The crudeness of early photography was primarily manifested by the large, cumbersome cameras, huge lenses and photo plates relying on the long exposure times of the old chemicals. Long exposures tend to create dawdling and not diligently watching the exposure time or not computing the time correctly to begin with. The plates required rigorous attention at keeping them from unintentional light exposure and the processing of the exposed plates was not so easy as it is/was today. Those with the photographic gift for attentiveness and attention to detail took many high quality photos we still see today while the failures could never get those cameras to give up their secrets.

Posted by Dink Newcomb at June 26, 2016 3:02 PM