Out Of Context, Preservation As Art

I have started working on a new photo series. Most of the work I do centers around old photography (and by old I mean 19th century to early 20th century). For a few years now I have collected old film, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, snapshots, glass plate negatives, etc. I found myself constantly drawn in to images of people I don’t know from time periods I can only imagine. As strange as it seem to some, I find old portraits and images not only interesting, but also comforting. It might sound odd to feel a sort of kinship to people you don’t know, but it what inspires my work.

For this particular series, I am playing with the idea of taking old images “out of context” or out of their original states. That can mean turning a tintype into a cyanotype or an ambrotype in to a c-print on vellum, really the possibilities are endless. I started doing this almost a year ago now, seeing what an image from one medium would like in a new medium. The idea came in part from a preservation standpoint. Part of photographic preservation often means scanning or photographing images to make a digital copy for research and safe keeping. A lot of older photographs are usually susceptible to some sort of degradation and preservation keeps those images alive by digitizing them and safely storing them. I wanted to take this idea a step farther though. I wanted to give a new life to a fading image.

My idea was to take images of people who have long since been forgotten and create a new take on them through a new artistic presentation. Don’t get me wrong, the original images are breath taking and beautiful. But the fact is, some of these images where in such bad shape when they were found that even if there are properly stored now the damage can not be undone. So I don’t want to just preserve their damaged state, but try to restore and give a bit of new life to a different state of the image. It may be a little out of context from the original image, but it will celebrate the rich medium of photography and its many processes.

“In Mind Mind” ©EmilyPate2016  A collection of tea-toned cyanotypes on watercolor paper

This is my first piece from this series. It is a collection of images I have re-made into tea-toned cyanotypes. I have called this piece “In My Mind.” It is a personal reflection of the images I have come to collect and the idea that now they don’t just exist in their original faded states in old boxes, basements, and under beds. They are now in my mind and in my art.


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