ClassyArts

Username:
Password:

Forgotten Password?   JOIN FREE!
OR SUBSCRIBE

People
Dating Old Photos
Images
Photohistory
Photographers
Artists
How-To
Dated Imprints
Public Domain Archive
Indexed Images
Articles
ClassyArts Blog

NOTICE: A greatly expanded and PROFUSELY ILLUSTRATED version of this material is being prepared as an ebook - watch this space for availability announcements.

Loose Paper Photographs

Not all paper photographs are mounted on a cardboard backing. During most of the 20th century, photographs were printed on paper thick enough that they did not require a mount. Fine art photographs were always mounted, but common 'snapshots' taken by amateur photographers, and some of the smaller sized prints produced by professional studios, were never intended to be mounted. Most were intended to be placed in albums, but vast numbers never made it that far, and were (and are still) loose in boxes and drawers around the home.

Unmounted paper prints exist from the 19th century, but they are very uncommon. Most of the prints that did not get placed on mounts have not survived -- they were too fragile. The paper used was very thin, and quickly tore, curled and faded with even light handling. Sometimes we find loose prints that were originally mounted on Stereo Cards, CDVs or Cabinet Cards, but have fallen off because humidity can destroy the effectiveness of some pastes used to adhere them.

Only a very dedicated amateur photographer would bother to mount their prints, but every amateur had to be very dedicated in the 19th century, just to take and develop photographs at all. It was only late in that century, 1888 specifically, that the first successful attempt to bring photography to the masses were made, with the introduction of Kodak cameras.

With the Kodak, you just need to click the button and the Eastman company did the rest -- they developed, printed and mounted the photographs. Only fairly well-to-do families could afford a camera, even the Kodak, in the 19th century.

In 1900 the Eastman Kodak company introduced its Brownie series of box cameras, beginning at just $1. They sold like crazy. A huge support industry grew up of photographic developers and printers who specialized in supporting the amateur market. At first they mounted most of the photos they printed, though some, like the popular cyanotype (blue images) were on paper thick enough they could be handled without mounting. Within a few years thicker paper became available, and mounting became an expensive option that was usually disregarded.

So today, the vast majority of unmounted photographs one encounters come from the 20th century. By the 21st century digital imagery has largely supplanted old-style photography, so there are fewer images printed, and loose images are again becoming an exception, rather than the rule. And modern prints are easily distinguished from earlier ones, because those from the latter 1/4 of the 20th century and newer are mostly on plastic-coated papers.

NOTICE: A greatly expanded and PROFUSELY ILLUSTRATED version of this material is being prepared as an ebook - watch this space for availability announcements.





Copyright © 2006 - 2014 by Andrew J. Morris                       CONTACT