In early March, 2004, Harry Littell was instructing his advanced digital photography class at Tompkins Cortland Community College when something special happened. Lois Barden, a part time student, showed him a heavy crate of very old, dirty and neglected 8" x 10" glass plate negatives. A quick look set his heart pounding. The mystery plates apparently were images of early logging operations, people, and communities. Lois Barden had rescued them 30 years before from a tool shed on Honeoye Lake near Rochester, New York. She was intrigued by the images and recognized they had historical value. Harry Littell, who has photographed and authored several books dealing with regional historical photographs, confirmed she had made an important find. Harry Littell and Lois Barden began the arduous process of carefully cleaning nearly 100 glass plate negatives and scanning the images into digital format. From information scratched in the emulsion of several negatives, they determined the unknown photographer made the images in various logging camps near Galeton and Port Allegany in north central Pennsylvania in 1898 and 1899. Harry Littell says, "I wish I could describe the emotions that these images evoke ... the faces so solemn and haunting ... the bodies so rugged and fit ... the hillsides completely ravaged ..."
By the early 20th century, logging operations declined in Pennsylvania and many loggers moved on to virgin forests in the north central and Pacific north west areas of the U.S. There, probably the best known photographic images of the logging industry came from the 11" x 14" and 20" x 24" glass plates of photographer Darius Kinsey (1869 - 1945), who traveled throughout the area for 50 years beginning in the late 1800s, creating images that he and his wife Tabitha printed from huge glass negatives and sold to the loggers and others depicted for 50 cents a copy (Bohn & Petschek, 1978). Research has not yet revealed the photographer's motivation for making the Pennsylvania images, but Kinsey's enterprise provides a possible clue.
Ronald E. Ostman, Professor of Communication, Cornell University
The recipients of the thirtieth annual Light Work Grants in Photography are Mark Hemendinger, Harry Littell and Lois Barden, and Barry Perlus.
Mark Hemendinger (New Hartford) submitted work shot on a recent trip to the Museum of Natural History in New York City. He visited the museum with his son, reflecting on his own visits as a child to the same museum. During his childhood experiences, Hemendinger saw the museum as a “dark sanctuary.” The images did not fully reflect that awe and fear evoked by the museum until, after much trial and error, Hemendinger discovered the best way to transform them with a multiple toning technique. The images, originally taken in black-and-white, are a continual work in progress.
Hemendinger is a hospice social worker in New Hartford. His work has been exhibited throughout New York State.
Harry Littell and Lois Barden (Ithaca) submitted images that fall under the “photo-historian” category. While helping to settle her grandfather-in-law’s Honeoye Lake estate in 1974, Lois Barden came across numerous 8x10" glass plate negatives in a tool shed. She and Harry Littell started working together in 2004 to clean and digitally scan these negatives. They found that the images depicted men and women in north central Pennsylvania logging camps from 1897 to 1899 Information etched in the glass negatives supply the location and date. They say of the series, “As we begin to print these remarkable photographs we are searching for the stories that connect the people in them to each other, and through time, to us.” Both Littell and Barden are collaborating with author and professor Ron Ostman from Cornell University on a book about the project.
Lois Barden is a 911 dispatcher and a fine art photographer in Ithaca, NY. She lives on a farm with her husband. Harry Littell is a fine art photographer, author, and adjunct photography instructor at Tompkins Cortland Community College. His photography focuses on communities, architecture, and landscape in the Upstate region. He has collaborated with other artists on several books.
Barry Perlus (Ithaca) submitted images based on eighteenth century astronomical observatories located in west central India. He uses computer-based panoramic imaging to create an interactive tour of the observatories, which incorporated unique architectural structures to make astronomical measurements. The observatories bring together aspects of both art and science and embody the principles of architecture, astrology, astronomy, mathematics, and cultural and political history. With the changes from contemporary photographic styles to digital, it was necessary for Perlus to change his perspective when creating these images. Each 360º x 360º panoramic image is composed of twenty-nine overlapping images, and the main thing Perlus says he could control when creating them was the choice of vantage point to record what he saw. Perlus is an associate professor at Cornell University. He has been teaching photography since 1984 at both the graduate and undergraduate level.
Light Work would like to congratulate all of the winners of the thirtieth annual Light Work Grants in Photography and extend a special thank you to our judges: Chris Burnett, Lauren Tent, and Alex Harsley.
Jessica Heckmann ©2005