British photographic history

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“Pamela’s Circle c. 1740”
Ambrotype by Judith Harrison Kalter
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“Pamela’s Circle c. 1740” is a quarter plate ambrotype on black glass. It measures
3 ¼ x 4 ¼ inches and is still without a proper case. This is now my favorite photograph because it was made in the 21st Century, using a process devised in the 19th Century with equipment from the early-mid 20th Century to photograph a book written in the 18th Century. One of the first English novels, Pamela or Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson was first published in 1740 and is the story of a young woman, in servitude to the master of the house, who is also her tormentor. She prizes her chastity, learns how to protect it and is rewarded by marrying the lord of the manor and in the final chapters learns her new role in society. Virtue rewarded. The props in the photograph were carefully chosen to reflect the manners of Pamela’s social circle.

The picture accompanying my ambrotype is the set up I used in making the photograph and made with a digital camera. I like how the juxtaposition of the two photographs shows how the ambrotype image is flipped; truly a negative image of the subject. Both photograph were taken out of doors in natural light, filtered by tree leaves, late one afternoon. My camera is a Kodak 5x7 wooden view camera. The wetplate collodion process is familiar to most people as that used for tintypes. In fact it is difficult to tell the difference between a tintype and an ambrotype when they are in cases and under glass. I use a magnet to identify a tintype as it will attract a magnet and the glass of the ambrotype will not. Ambrotypes are most often made on clear glass with a dark paper or black velvet placed behind and glass over the plate to protect it. I will be writing about how to make an ambrotype in an upcoming edition of The Photogram.

“Pamela’s Circle c. 1740” also embodies for me the changing role of women from the rigid feminine roles of the 18th Century to the freedoms enjoyed and the roles played by women in society today.
Judith Harrison Kalter 2009

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Comment by Antiquarianphotographer on August 31, 2009 at 20:14
The ambrotype and set up photo can be seen on my photos section--I did not know how to attach them to this article--any help out there would be appreciated~Judith

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