British photographic history

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It is with great sadness that I inform the community of the death of Seán MacKenna, a photographer and historian whose work with historic processes made a major contribution to the understanding of the field. 

Originally an archaeological conservator at the Museum of London, Seán was regarded as the first person in the UK to actively use the wet-plate collodion process when he first started making ambrotypes and negatives some 15 years ago.

His knowledge and enthusiasm for early photography are reflected in the many years he spent as an American Civil War re-enactor and photographer, learning from contemporary US practitioners, original source material, and always striving for the utmost in authenticity.

Seán was still building his own cameras right up until his passing, and his knowledge of Dallmeyer lenses in particular made him an acknowledged expert within the community. He was known for his generous nature, and for his energy, passion and enthusiasm in passing on the knowledge to those starting out with historical processes. Thoughts are with his family at this time.

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Comment by Gavin Maitland on October 29, 2012 at 17:03

I met Sean earlier this year when he generously agreed to teach me the 'black art' as he called it. He was very kind and generous with his time and I was hoping to get back in touch to show him some of my own efforts in the future. He was a true photo-historian in every sense. RIP Sean.

Comment by Marcel Safier on October 23, 2012 at 11:30

This is devastating to learn. I phoned Sean when I was in London in 2010 but did not have time to meet with him and he joked about not leaving a meeting too long as he wasn't young anymore. I was hoping to get together with him on my next trip to the UK later next year. We corresponded over the years about our mutual interest in Frederick Scott Archer and also the Dallmeyer family and he was kind enough to share his wonderful research into the Dallmeyer archives and their lens production. Sean's death is particularly sad news for the wet plate photographic community.

Comment by Wendy Wallace on October 23, 2012 at 8:45

I'm sorry to hear of Sean's death. I have good memories of the day we spent with him last year making a wet collodion portrait, when he gave freely of his time and skill. Condolences to his family and friends.

Comment by Michael Pritchard on October 23, 2012 at 7:14

Sad news indeed. Sean was always very generous in sharing his knowledge and we exchanged notes on Dallmeyer lens serial numbers based on work that we had been doing independently in the Dallmeyer archives. 

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