Monday, June 21, 2010

Aether Salon: Photography!

June's Aether Salon brought Mr. PJ Trenton to New Babbage to discuss his passion, photography. Mr. Trenton is a freelance photographer, as well as a photographer for a number of magazines, including the Primgraph, and is well known throughout the Steamlands for his artistic prints.

After a brief introduction to the Salon by Miss Jed Dagger and an introduction of the speaker by Mr. Jasper Kiergarten, Mr. Trenton began his talk, aided by the projection of images onto a frame.

He noted that the precursor to the camera and photographic development process was the camera obscura, a box with a pinhole that projects an image on a screen. In the 18th century, Johann Heinrich Schulze discovered that various silver salts darken in the presence of light. Thomas Wedgewood attempted to use this discovery to record an image on a surface, only to find that the image continued to darken over time, and thus was not permanent.

French inventor Nicephore Niepce was credited with the first "permanent" photograph. Niepce had the insight that what was needed was a substance that would become light, not dark, when exposed to light, thus creating a negative of the desired image. Shortly afterward, fellow Frenchman Louis Daguerre developed a process using copper plate coated in iodine, then exposed to light, subjected to mercury vapor, and "fixed" by soaking the plate in salt water. In England, William Fox Talbot made a nearly simultaneous discovery.

As the photographic process continued to develop through the 19th century, photography portrait studios became popular, despite the lengthy times (on the order of 30 seconds) subjects were required to remain perfectly still. Other photographers focused on more artistic pictures, including allegories and depictions from literature.

I found the talk to be fascinating and, judging from the questions asked afterward, I was far from the only one.

One of the guests at the Salon was none other than Mr. AM Radio:

As usual, a good-sized crowd came to hear the speaker and was most enthusiastic in their appreciation of the talk.

Sadly, this was the last Salon for the season. Happily, a new season begins in Autumn, a few short months away.

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