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Saturday, 18 May 2013

Resident Ghosts. Hackney Museum. until 18th May

This group of Asian people were probably attending the Salvation Army Congress in 1886. The glass plate negative from which this photograph is produced is etched with the name Colonel Nichol. Alexander Nichol was a missionary and scholar of Hinduism and a high ranking Commissioner in the Salvation Army. He must have taken the group to Eason’s studio to be photographed.

A huge apology to Sue McAlpine for giving me all info super professionnally and for me thinking the exhib' finished the 28 instead of today.

AN exhibition of the borough’s earliest photographic portraits, dating as far back as the 1840s, has opened in Hackney Museum.

Resident Ghosts displays a rare collection of daguerreotypes – the first commercially successful photography process – of Hackney people in a time when the art form was in its infancy.

They were collected by Caton: “I found photographs of former Hackney residents in the strangest of places: a hotel photo fair in upstate New York, a former junk shop in Greenwich, an antiques shop in Glasgow to name but a few.”

On display are also photographs from one of Hackney’s earliest portrait photographers. Thirteen years ago more than 2,000 glass plates were found in a cellar in the old Parochial School in Wilton Way, E8. They used to belong to Victorian photographer Arthur Eason, who had a Dalston Lane studio that attracted a fascinating mix of East Londoners from music hall performers to members of the Salvation Army.

Resident Ghosts runs at Hackney Museum until 18 May. Free entrance.

 Wong Ock, Hong Jong, Wing Wong
It is likely that these three came to England as delegates to the Salvation Army’s International Congress in 1886. Arthur Eason himself had been a Christian missionary in China. He had joined the China Inland Mission which was set up by James Hudson Taylor. By the early 1900s there were 800 missionaries in China and 125,000 Chinese Christians.
 Mae was the daughter of Arthur and Minnie Eason. They adopted her whilst working as Christian missionaries in Hudson Taylor’s China Inland Mission. Mae grew up to become a teacher in England.
Elizabeth Drabble
She was an extremely committed member of the Salvation Army. Her embroidered jersey proclaims her lifelong commitment to God, a large Salvation Army badge is fastened to the neck of her jumper and she shows us a copy of the Salvationists’ newspaper ‘The War Cry’. As staff captain at the training homes in Clapton, Elizabeth would have been involved in preparing hundreds of recruits for officer roles in the Salvation Army who would be commissioned to preach and serve in all parts of the world.
 A display of the earliest photographic portraits taken in Hackney and some curious personal articles related to them.

Historic photographs from the private collection of Caton, including the rare early portrait daguerreotype taken in Hackney, in 1848 by Timothy Le Beau and the St Leonard Chruch School for Girls taken in c 1845.

This display is the fruit of over 15 years of intensive collecting. I have found these incredibly early photographs of former Hackney residents taken during the 1840’s and 1850’s, in the strangest of places: a hotel photo fair in upstate New York, a former junk shop in Greenwich,
eBay, from an antiques shop in Glasgow, a second hand bookshop…to name but a few sources.

I have been associated with Hackney both professionally and creatively since the late 1980’s and have a deep affection and regard for the people and the diverse culture of Hackney. Naturally, I am very interested in learning about the people who lived here in different
centuries, especially in the mid 19th century when photography became more widely available to the general public and people had their likeness ‘taken’ by a professional photographer. At the start of this project I wondered if it might be possible to find pictures of people who walked the streets of Hackney during the 1840’s and 50’s and stare
them in the eyes. Over the years I have painstakingly put together an ensemble of images that show us in astonishing detail how people looked, dressed, and portrayed themselves in the mid Victorian age.This small collection initially developed from a chance encounter with the discovery of a daguerreotype portrait*, taken in c 1848 which led me to search for other examples in an endless cycle of possibilities that has taken me across continents and involved the expertise of photographic historians, local researchers and experts in genealogical research.

Here are some of the oldest and rarest photographs in existence taken of the people who lived in Hackney at the dawn of the photographic revolution. Finding them has taken a great deal of time and effort. I have enlisted the enthusiastic help of others to source them over the
years. We now take it completely for granted that we can make a photograph of someone on a mobile telephone camera in a matter of a few seconds. In these pioneer images, obtaining a good quality likeness of the sitter would require them to sit or stand perfectly motionless for
up to 30 seconds so as not to blur the picture and ruin it. Photography was very expensive and exclusive to the wealthy classes only. However, in some of these pictures you can clearly see people from less privileged backgrounds who have been photographed alongside a patron or mentor and who may not have been the principal subjects of the photographer but provide us with a fascinating glimpse into life 160-170 years ago.

The photographs chiefly comprise of the world’s earliest photographic processes: namely the daguerreotype and ambrotype (or collodion positive). The daguerreotype was the world’s first photographic process invented by Louis-Jacques Mande Daguerre in the 1830’s and used extensively from 1839 until about 1860 when it was phased out. Daguerreotypes are unique direct positives on silver coated copper plates. They are remarkable for their incredible quality of detail, sumptuous tonal ranges and beautiful ‘holographic’ quality that far surpasses any photograph printed on paper. In this display you can see the earliest known portrait photograph ever taken in Hackney, a portrait of a youth by Timothy Le Beau, an artist’s colour man and paint supplier who also doubled up as a photographer. This photograph dates to c 1848 when Le Beau had a studio near Hackney Road. Incredibly, the building still stands today but it is no longer a photographic studio. There is also a daguerreotype of the St Leonard Shoreditch Church School taken in Hackney in around 1845, showing us a glimpse of the ‘students’ lined up outside against a giant canvas backdrop hung between two trees.

The Ambrotype or collodion positive on glass plate was also a unique positive photograph, invented by Frederick Scott Archer in 1851 the process swiftly superseded the daguerreotype as it was cheaper to implement and manufacture the plates from glass rather than silver
coated copper. Ambrotypes had a much longer run and were still being taken up until the 1890’s.

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