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Welcome to BLINK

Welcome to BLINK, a new blog, in which we will share news relating to The Mariners’ Museum’s Photographic Collection. BLINK will also be the landing place where we archive photographs submitted by the community that are related to Museum-sponsored workshops.

The inspiration for this blog grew out of public programming for two photographic exhibitions that opened in October, 2017: Another Look: Marine Photography from 1948-1972 and Views of the Baltic Sea: Contemporary Photographs from Greifswald, Germany.

Today, I’d like to kick off the blog with one of the most creative, albeit oddball finds in the Photography Collection. Back in the day, long before computers, digital cameras and photo-editing software, one photographer devised a curious method to add clouds to a photograph.

Side wheel steamers General Slocum and John Sylvester on the East River, New York, New York. Photograph by Frederick J. Sedgwick dated June 12, 1904. [MS0095-0569]

On two of his glass-plate negatives, photographer Frederick J. Sedgwick (1853-1929) adhered bits of cotton batting to the sky area, thus producing an impression of clouds. As you can see, his result was successful!

Original glass-plate negative for MS0095-0598, showing cotton batting on the surface.
Side wheel steamers Grand Republic and John Sylvester under way, New York, New York. Photograph by Frederick J. Sedgwick dated June 12, 1904. [MS0095-0598]

But the question remains…why? The following photograph was taken on the same day, but no cotton was added to this image.

Side wheel steamer John Sylvester and the ferry Annex 4 under way in the East River, New York, June 12, 1904. Photograph by Frederick J. Sedgwick.

Was this simply an experiment or did he decide it wasn’t worth the effort? Out of more than 1300 negatives in our collection of Sedgwick negatives, only these two had this augmentation. Ah, the mysterious unknown!

[originally posted 2018]

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