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As We Were Then Fine Art Collection

Posted on March 01 2019

The Museum of Newport History and Shop is proud to be Newport's home for As We Were Then, artist Alma Davenport's collection of of historic photographs of Newport and Jamestown. Bring history home with a purchase of these fine art prints through our online store!

Collection Details: 

Photographs of Jamestown and Newport c.1890-1934

Photo-graphy = Writing with Light

Jacque Louis Mande Daguerre, a Frenchman, publicly unveiled the invention of photography in 1839. His images were tiny, made on metal plates, and exposures were hours-long. Over the years, improvements were made to the process, and fifty years later at the turn of the 19th century (when many of these images were made) light-sensitized glass was substituted for metal plates as the negative’s base, image sizes were much larger and exposure times had been cut dramatically.

Although photographers had taken advantage of improvements to the process, chemistry sets were still required to mix the sensitizing solution and for development of the negative and print. The camera equipment was so cumbersome that many photographers used a special cart to move it. Exposure times were much shorter, but if you look carefully at aa few of the images in this collection you will see some blurring due to human or animal movement.

Immediately after the turn of the 19th century, cameras had become smaller and easier to use. Improvements to the film meant that exposure times were even shorter. The more casual images were shot using a hand-held – sometimes called a “detective” - camera. While subjects still had to be still until the shutter clicked, the hand camera had ushered in the era of snapshots.

These photographs depict Jamestown and Newport from 1890 to 1934. Jamestown, in 1890, was a sleepy island devoted mostly to farming. Newport, more cosmopolitan than Jamestown, was catering to both the very wealthy and was increasingly drawing middle-class visitors, eager to experience “the fashion queen of all American watering resorts for summer pleasure”.

Many of the photographs in this collection were made from original 8x10” glass plate negatives; some were shot using the hand-held cameras popular in the early 1900s. Whether generated from a glass-plate or a snapshot, these images represent a time gone by.

As we were then.

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