Has a photograph ever just knocked your socks off? This happened to me a few days ago at the Worcester Art Museum when I saw the photograph below. William Bullard's 1901 portrait of Martha (Patsy) Perkins is brimming with visual treats: her poise and composure, the exquisite lighting, the elegant dress and, of course, that hat (straight out of a Victorian millinery shop). Unlike many portrait photographers at the time, Bullard did not have a studio so he hauled his heavy and fragile equipment by trolley to the homes and workplaces of his clients -- resulting in portraits that are more relaxed and lifelike than the stiff and formal varieties coming from studios.
Surprisingly, modern digital photography can't touch the subtle shading, fine details and soft skin tones captured in the 117-year-old negatives used to create the prints in this show. The millions of pixels in my camera's quarter-dollar sized sensor are impressive until compared to the billions of light-sensitive molecules in the 4"x5" inch dry gelatin glass plate used by Bullard.
This new insight motivated me to re-view the smattering of portraits on my web site. One of my favorites is the image below of a Cuban dancer. These two jpg images don't begin to show the huge disparity in image quality so you'll have to take my word for it (or better yet, go see the show in Worcester).
Remarkably, all of the equipment, materials and chemicals for this process (invented by Dr. Richard L. Maddox in 1871) are still available. I don't have time right now for a new project -- but it's tempting!
Follow the links below to learn more about William Bullard's incredible work and to view my "Cuba 2015" gallery.