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Hanlon Publishes Book on Photographic History

December 10, 2013

Book cover  

St. Louis Community College-Meramec art professor David Hanlon has written a book on photographic history, “Illuminating Shadows: The Calotype in Nineteenth-Century America.”

Hanlon’s book, his first, tells the story of the introduction of photography in America, concentrating on the work of individuals who made images by means of paper negatives.

“In the 1840s and early 1850s (when the story takes place) most photographers in the United States were working with a rival process - the silver-plated daguerreotype - so this other work on paper was certainly an undercurrent,” Hanlon said. “What makes these lesser-known images relevant, however, is that it was through this process that photography eventually grew and prospered.  The daguerreotype method produced no negative, and eventually became a dead end. The analysis of early work undertaken in America by the paper negative method (the calotype) has never been fully considered, so I thought it a relevant project to take on.”

Calotype is an early photographic process where a sheet of paper coated in silver chloride is exposed to light. The areas exposed to light turn dark, creating a negative image.

Hanlon has been researching the topic for about 10 years, studying the photographic work of a few select individuals. While researching, Hanlon discovered several links within a larger group of photographers, and he decided to tell the story of experiments with the calotype process.

“In most photographic histories, paper-negative photographs in America are given only a paragraph or two and mention only two or three people who worked with the material,” Hanlon said. “Surprisingly, I was able to find more than 70 practitioners of this early process. It also was thrilling to be able to discover lost examples of this work in the archives and vaults of the Smithsonian and other places while undertaking research.”

The book will be available beginning Dec. 15. It can be purchased through Carl Mautz Publishing.