For the past 15 years I have been photographing my relatives farm in Germany creating a large body of work. My images tell the story of my family, the farm itself, the landscape surrounding it and all the nuances and effects of how modern technology has drastically altered the lifestyle of a “small farm.”
Last year, I met a woman named Elisabeth whose grandmother, Hilma Ljung, was from the small Swedish farm town of Svalöv and took numerous photographs of her family and farm between 1910-1925. Elizabeth told me about the 100 or so glass plate negatives that she had and asked me if I would be interested in them. Upon looking at them, I could instantly visualize what my relatives farm in Germany may have looked like during that era. This was so special to me.
What really caught my attention was that they were gelatin dry plate glass negatives. This form of photography is somewhat unique and not all that common. One of the main reasons glass plate negatives mostly disappeared from the consumer market was because of the introduction of the much more user friendly, less fragile gelatin silver negative on celluloid roll film.
Prior to 1903 when the invention of what we know today as film (gelatin silver negative), photographic emulsion was made on glass plates. There were two formats. The wet plate collodion, discovered in 1851 by British inventor Frederick Scott Archer, and the gelatin dry plate negative discovered in 1871 by Richard Leach Maddox. Both of these glass plate formats have a light sensitive emulsion that is attached to the glass plate with a binder.
I am currently in the process of combining these two special bodies of work. It is a beautiful story. A sad story. An important story. And a story I am eager to share with you all.
Below are a few images from Elisabeth’s grandmother Hilma Ljung and myself. The above image and the first 3 images are from Hilma and the last 4 are mine.