The archive of the Dallmeyer company in the 19th century has been made available online. Seán MacKenna photographed and digitised the production records of the Dallmeyer Lens Company, which are held by the Brent Archive, over a period of several years with the view to making these records available to all. This was still a work in progress at the time of his death in October 2012 and with the help of several people a website at www.thedallmeyerarchive.com has been published based on the records that he left. It enables the dating and identification of Dallmeyer lenses produced between 1863 and 1901, serial numbers 4500 to 65000 (approximately). There are sections on the more common lens types produced between 1860 and 1900. Also included are biographies of John H Dallmeyer and Thomas R Dallmeyer, some information on Dallmeyer's workers and ten lantern slides showing them at work. There’s also a series of Dallmeyer catalogues, and price lists and adverts derived from the BJA, 1861 to 1900.
The BJP has announced that its entire archive is to be digitised and made available to researchers worldwide, starting in 2014. It’s not clear what the timescale is for completion, nor what the charges for access might be. It promises to be an excellent tool for researchers into photographic history, especially if it comes with a good search facility.
The Royal Photographic Society has digitised the entire run of the RPS Journal, from March 1853 to the end of 2012, at archive.rps.org. It is searchable, and free to access. The magazines can be browsed, or you can enter a search term and get a list of matches. Clicking one of these leads to a well-scanned two-page spread of the original magazine, where you can read the original article, including illustrations. Regrettably the search process is very basic – you can search for a specific word or phrase, but there’s no means of finding an article containing two separated words. And you have to be accurate – I got 159 references to Mr. Sutton but none at all to Mr Sutton. Nevertheless this will be a valuable resource for anyone researching photographers or cameras.
Running at least until the end of April 2015, www.daguerreobase.org is a European funded non-profit research project that aims to collect at least 25,000 descriptions of daguerreotype objects in the Daguerreobase database and make a digital representation of them available. It is intended to document as many daguerreotypes as possible in public and private collections (yes, even if you only have one) and make images of them and many curatorial details available to all, also free of charge. The detail asked if you wish to enter an image is considerable, so some may be put off by the complexity. If you are looking for a photographer, location, or subject, or looking for daguerreotypes with particular characteristics, this is, or will be, the place to go.
Henry Fox Talbot’s correspondence is now online at foxtalbot.dmu.ac.uk. De Montfort University has prepared a comprehensive edition of nearly 10,000 letters to and from Talbot, with a sophisticated search tool allowing you to home in on topics, correspondents, dates and so on. You get a transcription rather than a facsimile, with useful annotations from the researchers.
The Lomo company – famed for “lomography”, and also the Kiev Arsenal factory, recently raised about $1.5m using the internet as a funding source, to design and build a new Petzval lens suitable for modern DSLRs – Canon or Nikon fitting. This seems remarkable in several ways – to raise such a large sum from the general public in 30 days, and that enough people would want the product. To quote from Lomography: “Characteristic photos shot with the Petzval lens are recognizable for their sharpness and crispness in the centre, strong color saturation, wonderful swirly bokeh effect, artful vignettes and narrow depth of field. Because of the characteristic swirly bokeh effect that it produces, the New Petzval Lens is perfect for portraits where you want your subject to be the center of attention. The New Petzval Lens features premium glass optics and is manufactured in Russia by Zenit, a company with a long and distinguished history in lens design.” Historic Petzval lenses in your collection are probably inconveniently long in focal length for such small cameras, so if you want to try the experience this could be the way to go. You’ll need to stump up $459 for your pre-order, delivery later this year. It’s in a brass mount, and certainly looks the part. Alternatively, making one yourself from bits in the optical scrap box doesn’t look beyond the bounds of possibility.
An occasional and irregular blog, mostly of photographic experimentation and photographic history.