Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Have Your "Likeness" Made at R.J. Gibson Photography

Amateur and professional historians alike are thankful for the invention of photography. When the Frenchman Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre presented his work in the late 1830s, the ability to tell stories about the past changed forever. The daguerreotype, and later processes such as the tintype and ambrotype (glass plate) quickly made photographic images of the past a more significant source of information than painted portraits. Whereas painted portraits are often subject to an artist's interperation, photographs capture exactly what is in front of the lens.

Last Friday Michele and I visited Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and took the opportunity to call on Ron Gibson's photographic studio on Steinwehr Avenue to have our "image struck." We had wanted to have a period picture made for quite some time and thought we would take a few minutes to do so while we were so close to one of the most respected period photographers around. When it was all said and done were so happy we chose Mr. Gibson's studio because Ron and his wife Dee made the experience really special. Not only was it fun and entertaining, but it was an educational experience as well. Ron took the time tell and show us the photography process the mid-nineteenth century way in great detail. Both Ron and Dee took extra-care to find the right wardrobe selections for us to make our civilian appearance period correct and to position us in an era-appropriate pose.

The process of making our tintype was fascinating. First the sheet of metal had to be prepared by brushing all dust and debris away to make a clean and clear surface. Then a chemical was poured over the sheet of metal to create the "film" that would capture the image. We were then posed, even to the point of using a period "headrest" for Michele since she was standing to make sure she didn't move while the picture was being taken. The "tin" was placed into the camera, the lens opened and as about twelve seconds ticked off, the image was made. Then the tin was put into a chemical bath, and then finally another bath in which the image you see above slowly emerged.

Getting a period photo made was one of those rare chances to step back in time. I highly recommend it, even if you aren't a history nut like me. You will come away impressed at how difficult it must have been for period photographers to practice their craft and how special it felt to have your "likeness" made so long ago.

To find out more about Ron Gibson's photography please visit his web site at:

1 comment:

  1. Great picture and I have enjoyed the site so far...looking forward to reading more.

    Corey Meyer