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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Correction And Tribute To German Photoprocessing

In my previous post, I made allusion to Norma's camera mislabeling its subjects. I realize now this constituted an untruth and a disservice to German bronze, which I will try to correct by posting the whole picture.

What you see here is a monument in Golden Gate Park depicting the seminal figures of Wiemar Classicism, a great innovation in philosophy, art, theatre and literature, the elder Schiller passing the laurel to his young friend, Goethe. This was an important event. There are philosophy classes in community colleges all over the world exploring the reasons why Goethe does not rhyme with "both". But that has nothing to do with photography. This does:

It is the original statue in Wiemar. It was produced in 1857 by a system of photoprocessing that very nearly eclipsed its famous subjects. We are familiar with much of photographic history. The French had Daguerre and the British, Fox Talbot, innovators who teased latent images from silver salts in albumin to produce true photographs. Working from the research of England's Sir Chas. Wheatstone, Oliver Wendell Holmes (American), perfected a stereoscope for 3-D viewing. In principle, the stereoscope focused upon two flat offset images and combined them into 3-D by making sober people cockeyed. Germans, however, in keeping with their long tradition of technical excellence, went one step further. They abandoned silver nitrate and sodium halides in favor of bronze, and produced real 3-D images.

It was possible to take a snapshot of two people and have it enlarged and processed in bronze at any German drugstore. You'd get your negative back with solid prints in enormous envelopes held shut with a gummed flap. You could send copies to friends in Syracuse,



And San Francisco:



  1. Any tme that incredible era of invention comes up, I'm mindblown.

    BTW, I'm convinced those are your own names behind you. I don't care about the metalheads up top. Let em get another plinth.

    And man, did I love my Viewmaster.

  2. I still have my Viewmaster! --Schiller

  3. :-)

    That was delightful. I learned something, and I was amused.

    It's all I ask, really.


  4. Thank you for sharing. Looks like you did a lot of research.

  5. No wonder my German grandmother hated cameras. She was probably traumatized from having to schlepp 3-D bronze monsters from the drugstore when she was a girl. You're too funny.

  6. I'd never heard of this. And now we just have digital photos, which are hardly ever processed into anything but for laptops or electronic photo frames. Very interesting stuff!

  7. Pearl-- I have adopted your comment as a hopeful and general summation of life!

    Munir-- Thank you for reading my essay, and welcome!

    Susan-- There was also danger. Nothing sours ones archive viewing like dropping an album of statues on one's foot.

    Amy-- Good point. Digital electronics are amazing too but posterity may be poorer for them.

  8. Silver would have been more expensive and easily dented. Bronze though is heavier and would have cost more to send in the mail. You wouldn't need to wrap bronze though, just write the address in felt tip on it. You would have to wait for felt tip pens to be invented however. If I had to choose I'd go for bronze every time. Less polishing for a start. Actually the whole thing is just too much bother. Anyway I don't like statues.

  9. "Stookies", as McClaren called them, aren't for everyone. My own dad actually left Catholicism because the statues unnerved him.


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