July 7, 2010

Victorian Images

I have collected Victorian era images for many years. They often come in boxes and sometimes wonderful old books. Rarely do they have the name of the person whose image is shown although the cabinet cards may have the name of the photographer and the location.
The images fuel my imagination so that the person becomes a character in the story I am writing. I also use them in my writing classes to spark students imagination and in character building.

Some of my favorite images are that of children. They are often posed seated in a too big chair or standing as if hanging in mid air. They wear clothing that is pristine, hair perfectly combed or curled, hats with feathers like their mothers, though boys, small ones that is, wore skirts and dresses too. I have one in my collection, of a child taken soon after its death. Funerary picture taken was not uncommon.

My collection of photographs comes from all over the country, world in fact. I used to have numerous Daguerreotypes, tin types, early glass negatives and stereo views, but this collection has dwindled.

Years ago, when I was a power seller on Ebay, and once sold old cameras and glass magic lantern slides for a consignor. Some of the images were identifiable, but many were not. I personally bought those that were left, thinking I would do something with them one day - until I found out how much it would cost to convert the glass image to a real picture. I showed them to several people I knew because the photographer was a local name. To my extreme delight, the images were of local people, places, and even things. I did have them reproduced and the images made a fabulous addition to my book, Bethania: The Village by the Black Walnut Bottom. Some of these can be viewed on my website along with modern day images taken by Bowman Gray IV. His photography is awesome and he is soon releasing a book by Blair Publishing - more on this later.

My favorite image is one I found in a box of papers and books at a local auction. The image is that of a tall elderly lady dressed in a black cap and gown. She wears black leather gloves, spectacles, and has tight curly hair peaking through the cap's rim. She looks tall, elegant and stately. I knew who she was the moment I held the image in my hands.

I knew her, knew her history, knew where she lived, knew so many stories about her life. Her name is Emma Augusta Lehman, a daughter of Bethania, and was born in 1841. She taught for fifty years at Salem College. Her discovery of a rare botanical plant in 1903 at Roaring Gap, along with correspondence and other material document how the plant Monotropsis lehmani was named after her, as was a Building at Salem, Lehman Hall. 

She lived in one of my homes as a child, and as a getaway, when needed from her busy life. Images were meant to keep memories a live. Please don't throw them out or toss them in the trash pile, send them my way and I'll give them a place in time, and in history.

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