Tag Archives: hand coloring

Rendering The Spirit: Interview with Eddie Hirschfield

Could you tell me your name?
Ed Hirschfield

Where are you from?
New Jersey, but have been in the DC area since 1975.

How did you get into photography as an art medium (as opposed to casual or professional use)?
My degree is in Photography (The George Washington University), and I’ve always been interested in it as art medium.

Which alternative processes do you practice?
Hand coated emulsions, Cyanotypes, Cliché Verre

What attracted you to alternative processes in general?
The potential for unique images. 

What drew you to the specific media you practice?
The introduction of serendipity into the creation of the images.

How does the choice of media influence your choice of subject matter (or vice versa)?
For the images accepted in this show, I was going for a painterly effect, and the nude lends itself to this.

In today’s mobile, electronic world of instant communication and virtual sharing of images, how important is it to you to create hand-made images? 
Extremely important. There’s a fleeting aspect to the new way to share photographs. A physical image has more staying power.

Is your choice to practice alternative, hand-made photography a reaction to, a complement to, or not influenced by the world of digital media? 
To a degree, it is a reaction, for the reasons stated above. However, without being influenced by the fleeting nature, and “perfection”/repeatability of digital, I’m not sure if I would have been as open to creating work which is so prone to flaws, chance, and experimentation. I’d like to think I would, but I have noticed a change in my work, since the advent of digital. 

Do you incorporate digital media into your alternative process work? 

If so, how do you incorporate it? Is it limited to mechanical reproduction technique, or does it inform/shape/influence the content of your work?

What role do you see for hand-made/alternative process work in the art world of today? Where do you see yourself in that world?
I think this is a great time for photographers pursuing alternative processes. In a world obsessed with instant gratification, the time, and passion, required to create unique images is a great antidote. I also see a greater appreciation, among the public, for the craftsmanship inherent in alternative processes. As for my place in this world, it’s not something I think about. I just want to continue my work, and continue to create photographs.

Eddie Hirschfield
Eddie Hirschfield

Cased Tintype – Affectionate Confederate Soldiers

My latest acquisition. This is probably in a three-way tie for the best piece (by my own accounting, not on a financial basis) in my cased images collection, and still in the top 5 if you include my CDVs. Quite the rarity, it depicts a pair of Confederate soldiers arm-in-arm, smoking cigars. The case is a sought-after Union case (the Union in Union Case has nothing to do with the Union vs. the Confederacy, but rather it was a term for the case style, coined in the mid-1850s) depicting crossed cannon. As the Civil War encroached, patriotic designs became increasingly popular, and I can see how and why a pair of Confederate soldiers would want such a case design for their image.

Crossed Cannon Thermoplastic Case
Crossed Cannon Thermoplastic Case

Here is the image in its brass mat –

Affectionate Confederates - Plate in brass mat
Affectionate Confederates – Plate in brass mat

And a scan of the bare plate without the mat. I have done some dust removal for the purpose of clarifying the image, and applied a little unsharp mask to the image to bring out detail that would be softened in the scanning process, but otherwise this is an accurate representation of the plate and its condition. The image and the case have condition issues, but it’s an unique piece – where are you ever going to find another copy of this image? Despite the plate condition, you can clearly see the hand-coloring of the uniforms, the flesh-tones, and even the lit ends of the cigars have been tinted red!

The case as a whole is generally in good shape, but the lid is missing the velvet pad. This isn’t such a horrible problem, as the velvet pad can always be replaced, but it would have been terrific if it had remained, as the pad might well have had identifying information about the photographer and his location.

Affectionate Confederates - 1/6 plate
Affectionate Confederates – 1/6 plate

I know I’ve harped on the topic of Victorian-era images of affectionate men before, but I’ll do it again, especially since an image like this can be so fraught with meaning mis-applied by modern sensibilities.

Here we have a pair of Confederate soldiers. They are arm-in-arm, casually smoking cigars. I read the gesture as being purely affectionate, bonding between two soldiers who may be not only deep friends but it also reads to me as reassurance in the face of potential mortality. This one lacks any suggestion of sexuality, but I love the way it humanizes two soldiers that it would be easy for us 150 years after the fact to pigeonhole for their support of a cause we today condemn.

Husband & Wife Daguerreotypes – 1/6 plate

My latest acquisitions for the collection – a husband-and-wife pair in leather/pressed paper case. These are probably early-mid 1850s judging from the case and the mats. The brass frame for the package says later, but the simpler mats argue earlier. These were purchased at another online auction (not eBay) and found at an outstanding price in part because the seller did not know how to photograph daguerreotypes. I have not opened up the packets to get rid of the dust between the glass and the dag plate because the original seals are intact, at least on the wife’s photo.



The photographer is unknown, as are the subjects. Very subtle hand-coloring can be seen on the plates, most notably in the man’s face and the woman’s dress.

Anonymous Lady by W.J.L. Dyer, Washington DC.

Hand-colored CDV by WJL Dyer
Hand-colored CDV by WJL Dyer

An anonymous CDV by WJL Dyer of Washington DC. Gotta love the advertising pitch on the verso:

W J L Dyer’s Gallery of Art, 144 Pennsylvania Avenue, Beautiful Pictures at Reasonable Prices, Frames of every description, on hand and Made To Order

Also note the hand-coloring of her jewelry and the faintest touch of rouge on her cheek. This is not bad, but I’ve definitely seen better quality hand-coloring on CDVs. Mr. Dyer’s studio, while in the same neighborhood, must not have been a direct competitor to Gardner and Brady. I was reading about the Brady studio in the immediate antebellum years and the first year or two of the Civil War, and it was a highly organized operation employing a wide range and large number of people. Their pay ranged from $8/week for the women who did the finishing work of pasting the photos onto the cartes and other similar tasks up to the specialists who retouched and hand-colored his Imperial prints who got between $11-$16.66 a day (the bonus was paid for working on a Sunday). I doubt Mr. Dyer’s hand-colorists were making that kind of money.

I got this one to add yet another address to my DC photographers’ map collection. I’ll have to look into making the map interactive with representative CDVs from each studio pop up when you mouse over the address. But that’s a programming feat for another day, and something to tackle relative to my day job (believe it or not, I do have a day job to pay for all this insanity – I do software developing). It would actually make a pretty cool portfolio piece for my development career.

C’est arrivee!

The first of the new images has arrived. The cased quarter-plate daguerreotype of a gentleman. The case itself is quite amazing – made to look like a little book, it’s nearly half an inch thick and gives the plate some real heft. Makes you wonder if the family had a series of them together on a shelf in their library. The image itself is in quite excellent condition, with minimal tarnishing around the edges of the mat. There is a very subtle hand-coloring applied to his cheeks. As you can see from the shot of the open case, the spine is torn but not completely broken.