Glass Plate Photography: Glimpse Into the Past, A Snapshot For the Ages

I went to a local garage sale and there were glass negatives for sale, a whole box for $3. For the price of a coffee, I got a collection of 4×5 glass slides that each probably cost the subject a considerable amount of their weekly paycheck to make.

Which makes me ask two questions:

1) Who were these people? I’m guessing these are from 1890 or so. That’s about 130 years ago. Yet here they still are. By us viewing their photographs, we keep them alive by thoughts and memories. They’re not gone–we see them, big hat and all! If they were relatives, we would know a little about them by what they showed us, just like our photographs will tell a little bit about us to future generations.

2) Where will that phone snap you made today be in 130 years? Really? Do you think anyone will be looking at that selfie you took at lunch with a friend in 2150? With 4.7 billion photos snapped a day (2022 stats), that’s uh…unlikely.

You can print them on metal. On canvas. On paper. On glass. In a book. In a zine. Wherever you choose. But if you want it to last a long long time, it’s got to be something much more tangible than 1s and 0s on hard drives full of quadrillions of files. It has to be real.

Even a negative on glass, as fragile as that may seem, has lasted the test to time. But only because it is something someone could hold in their hand, put in a box, pack it away and save it for all time.

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