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Glass negatives

Discussion in 'Period Civil War Photos & Examinations' started by ewmail15, Oct 12, 2017.

  1. ewmail15

    ewmail15 Private

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    C__Data_Users_DefApps_Windows Phone_AppData_INTERNETEXPLORER_Temp_Saved Images_$_3(4).jpg
    I hadn't realized the photography of CW days, as far at least as this attached glass negative, shows Johnny Reb holding his Sharps carbine with his right hand. Notice anything odd?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 12, 2017
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  3. ikesdad

    ikesdad Private

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    He is holding it in his left hand. As looking in a mirror, photos from then were reverse.
     
  4. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    I don't know. The only reason you wouldn't say this is a post mortem is, his eyes are looking at the camera. His fingers- and some seem to have been lost, aren't gripping the rifle, his left arm is out of frame with that pistol just barely being held for the camera. His clothes fit him oddly, too- as if freshly pressed but not really worn.

    Some post mortems are awfully good. As macabre as it sounds, a darn spoon was used to open eyes- or they were painted on eyelids. Paint doesn't seem to be the case here- is this a post mortem, poor guy?
     
  5. huskerblitz

    huskerblitz Captain

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    I don't think so. The stock of the rifle is resting on his leg with the barrel resting on his shoulder. His hand just needs to merely apply slight pressure to hold the rifle in place for the photo, hence no grip is needed. I think the man is certainly alive and well in the photo.
     
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  6. ikesdad

    ikesdad Private

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    I tend to agree that the guy is alive. Formal portraits were a big thing then, as they can be now, and even today we wear our Sunday best when having one taken. There is life in the eyes.
     
  7. connecticut yankee

    connecticut yankee Private

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    Adult post mortem photos of the Civil War period were almost exclusively taken with the subject in a supine position. Babies and very small children could be propped up on a coach or chair (or even held up from the back by an out of sight parent) to create a seemingly standing position. But it was near impossible to prop up an adult in such a way as the studios
    lacked mechanical devices to keep the body from slouching over (other than the stand to keep the head rigid which was used in nearly every photo).
     
  8. Zack

    Zack Private

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    The image is reversed I would say. It is common to see Civil War era photos that are of the negative and therefore reversed. This was what led to the popular story that Billy the Kid was left-handed (he wasn't, the image was just reversed). Not all period photographs we see are reversed, but it is definitely something to pay attention to when viewing an image.

    Here is some evidence for this:

    The Sharps Carbine hammer is on the right side of the gun.
    Berdan_Sharps_rifle.jpg
    In the photograph, it is on the left. This is a good constant to work off of. The hammer will always be on the right side. Whenever weapons are in the photograph, I use the hammer to determine if the image is reversed or not. The sharps in this photograph indicates that it is a reversed image.

    Words are also helpful, but there don't seem to be any in this photograph (such as a US or CS belt plate).

    So he is actually holding the rifle in his left hand and the knife in his right. Since left-handedness is not only the minority of the population but was also at the time (and for long before and after) associated with the devil, it makes sense that he would brandish a knife and pistol in his dominant, right hand.
     
  9. ewmail15

    ewmail15 Private

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    Yes Zack. I'm restoring a carbine shell, which made me do a double-take. Asks myself was this a one-off where the rifle was made for a left handed soldier? That just made no sense, as I've never read it elsewhere. The patch box also being on the same side was a giveaway.

    I recall that the photographer sees those posing for photos as upside down. Logic still eludes me as to why the optical illusion.
     
  10. Robert Gray

    Robert Gray First Sergeant

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    The side the buttons are on also is a good guide for determining a reversed image.
     
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  11. mofederal

    mofederal 2nd Lieutenant

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    A reversed CDV. He is alive beyond a doubt. I have seen very few post mortems where they even look alive. That was always the attempt, but it just rarely worked for lots of reasons. I have seen a few that have fooled me. One was a standing girl in her early teens. I still have some trouble believing that she is dead. I have seen a few others, but not many usually if you look close the eyes are cloudy or closed. Thanks for posting the image. It is till very interesting.
     

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