Friday 20 March 2015

Today's Partial Eclipse

Unfortunately today's partial eclipse in London will have resulted in little more than grey photos of a cloudy sky. So here are three images of eclipses past to make up for that.

The Metropolitan museum have this extraordinary set of Daguerreotypes by brothers William Langenheim and Frederick Langenheim who had opened a studio in Philadelphia. These seven images were taken during the first full solar eclipse since the invention of photography. I was interested to read that these images had to be so small (the smallest measuring 3.2 x 2.5 cms) at this early stage in the history of photography smaller cameras could function with less light and because the very nature of an eclipse means that there is limited light available William and Frederick had to use the smallest camera available.

This dramatic rendering of the eclipse from the British Museums collection is a mezzotint print ideal for creating the deep blacks and the stark contrast with the bright light. The inscription in pencil underneath suggests that this print was based upon watercolour sketches that the artist Drewitt made while at sea on the SS Ortona. I can only imagine how eerie an eclipse would look on board a boat.

We go back to photographs with this image from the V&A's collection which has already gathered 805 likes on instagram so far today. It is a print made in 1956 from a glass negative created in 1923-24 by the photographer Eugene Atget. This image has an almost theatrical quality with everyone gathered together engaging simultaneously in the same action.

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