The Conservation Department at George Eastman House is creating a resource databank, through a web interface, in the Connoisseurship of Fine Photographs. The databank will pull in information and examples of the key attributes of masterworks in photography. The goal of this research project is to create the section about Alfred Stieglitz’s work within the website, currently known as Notes on Photographs.
The combination of its photographic, technology, and rare book collections make George Eastman House an ideal location to compile information about Alfred Stieglitz. Fortunately, when a portion of his work was deposited at the museum in 1951, his technological equipment and cameras were included.
After surveying the Alfred Stieglitz collection at GEH, his lantern slides were selected for a deeper characterization study because they had never been described in depth. Also, proper illustration of these objects was an important goal of this project. Previous studies of Stieglitz’s work seldom included illustrations of his lantern slides. The few studies that included slides only illustrated the image, never considering them as an object. Interesting aspects of Stieglitz’s choice of technique for the format and presentation of lantern slides are explored in this project.
The photography of Alfred Stieglitz is known mostly through his prints, but it is interesting to consider that some of his most famous images, like The Terminal (figure 1) or Winter Fifth Avenue (figure 11) were also printed and presented in a magic lantern slide format.
A major reason for Alfred Stieglitz’s lantern slides being less known than his prints is that not many examples are held in museum collections. George Eastman House, with twenty–nine examples, and the Art Institute of Chicago, also with twenty-nine, were the only museums to receive lantern slides when Georgia O’Keeffe distributed her husband's collection after his death in 1946. The Museum of Modern Art in New York received a set of seventy-four lantern slides in 1953 that were later returned to the unknown donor.
Alfred Stieglitz exhibited lantern slides in the early days of his career, during his period as a member of The Society of Amateur Photographers of New York and The Camera Club of New York, from 1891 to 1908. Of the lantern slides in the George Eastman House collection, the earliest example is November Days (Munich) (figure 2), from 1886, taken during his time in Germany. Other slides are of images made during his time living in Europe, taken in Germany, with most dated 1889, and in Italy, with images from Pallanza, Bellagio and Chioggia dated 1887.
Stieglitz returned to the United States in 1890. Two years later he began using a hand-held camera (figure 3). The oldest camera in the Alfred Stieglitz collection at George Eastman House is a Tisdell & Whittlesey quarter-plate (3••• x 4••• inch) detective camera that dates from about 1887-1894. While this may be the camera Stieglitz used to produce his New York images of the time, it's likely that earlier in Germany he used an apparatus that is now lost.
During this period in New York, Stieglitz made lantern slides of the same subjects as his prints: winter images with snow. The examples from New York are dated from 1892 to 1899, with the most recent being Central Park (from [Alphonse?] Montant’s negative) (figure 4).
In 1894 he traveled through the European countryside with his camera. He took many photographs of peasants on the Dutch seacoast, the snowy landscape of Switzerland and the canals of Venice. When he came back to the United States this work was very well received by other amateurs and the general public. In the words of Sarah Greenough, “the photographs Stieglitz made on his 1894 European trip established him as one of the leading photographers of the time.” These images formed the main group of photographs (one third of the total) in Stieglitz’s first one–person exhibition at The Camera Club of New York in 1899.
The whole collection of lantern slides arrived at the George Eastman House in 1952. They came, and are still stored, in the original wooden box (figure 5) which has Stieglitz's pencil signature on the inside of the lid (figure 6).
The existence of these lantern slides by Alfred Stieglitz and his reasons for using this process is not well known. The most reasonable explanation is Stieglitz’s relationship with the two main groups of amateur photographers that were formed in New York at that time.
Two of the lantern slides in the George Eastman House collection have a specific label from “The Camera Club, N.Y.” An example of this can be seen along the top edge in figure 7. In both cases where “The Camera Club, N.Y.” is printed on the labels, Stieglitz's dates are prior to the establishment of the club which surely indicates when the original negatives, not the lantern slides, were made.
Established in 1884, The Society of Amateur Photographers of New York was an early organization devoted to amateur photography. The members of such clubs organized shows for viewing and sharing their work. For these purposes, the lantern slide was the most effective medium for showing images to a large audience. In addition, The American Lantern Slide Exchange, a branch of the organization, critiqued the work of other photographers and evaluated what similar societies were doing around the country.
Alfred Stieglitz joined The Society of Amateur Photographers of New York in 1891, a year after his return to the United States. It was in this group where he starting spreading his ideas about photography as an art.
In 1897, when the Society merged with the New York Camera Club to form The Camera Club of New York, Stieglitz was offered the presidency of the new organization. He declined the office and instead became vice–president and chairman of the Publications Committee. He also obtained a seat on the Exhibitions and Lantern Slides Committee.After that, the lantern slide process became a common subject in the journal The Amateur Photographer. Stieglitz himself had a great devotion for this photographic process, considering it “the most peculiarly fascinating branch of photography” and claiming that “the technique of slide making may be quite as interesting as that of the known printing processes, even including the gum methods that are now coming into vogue.” We cannot forget the importance also of the lantern slides competitions and exhibitions that were organized by The Camera Club of New York, that were won by Stieglitz on several occasions. Since 1891 Stieglitz had co–edited American Amateur Photographer, but with the new position he also started offering a larger publication, Camera Notes, whose first issue came out on in July 1897. The aesthetic and reproductive qualities of its photogravure illustrations were highly admired and Stieglitz continued to use this process in his later publications like Camera Work (1903-1917).
In 1902 Alfred Stieglitz abandoned the co-editorship of Camera Notes and in 1908 he was expelled from The Camera Club.
This group of photographs needed to be properly described and examined in order to make the information available. Visual examination and under UV conditions were used for that purpose.
Instead of the rectangular American format, all but two of Alfred Stieglitz’s lantern slides at George Eastman House use the square European format (approximately 8.3 x 8.3 cm). The measurements must be very approximate since it is common to find examples where the plate is irregularly cut or smaller than the cover glass, as we can see in figures 8 and 9.
Alfred Stieglitz mounted all of his lantern slides in the same way. Most of the examples in the collection retain their original binding and label with inscriptions. However, four examples were opened and rebound in the past with a plastic tape, resulting in lost inscriptions.
The elements we find in this objects give us valuable information about the way they were made and mounted. The characteristics we found in this group of photographs are the following:
The package formed by glass plate and cover glass is bound with paper tape around the edges. The corners are closed in 90 degree angle. The treatment performed in some of the examples show that this binding tape is not one singular paper strip all around since four different pieces.
The traditional paper tape used for lantern slides was sold in a roll with the adhesive already applied and ready to be moisture activated. The binding tape of the treated examples was removed with moisture application. The adhesive in the tape seemed to be gum based.
The images in these lantern slides are cropped and masked around with a paper window mat. This effect corresponds with the aesthetic Stieglitz was looking for during 1890s and 1900s. As Sarah Greenough points out, at that time Stieglitz insisted in the “little value” of an uncropped print while, since 1920s, his prints started showing the whole negative.
This window mat is a type of pre-made commercial mask. It came with markings as a guide for cutting different sizes of windows. On the front is printed “This Mat Copyrighted 1890, by Wm. Garrison Reed, Boston, Mass.” Apart from that, the mat has lines to be filled with technical details, specifically the “Plate” and “Developer,” information that was never added by the photographer.
From the back, it iss possible to see the non-cropped areas of the image going over the paper mat, as seen in figure 11.
The function of this mat is to separate the emulsion side from the cover glass. Though uncommon, sometimes it appears to have been glued directly to the plate. In those instances, traces of the adhesive or from the gelatin stuck to the mat are easy to see and document under UV light.
Alfred Stieglitz was very good at labeling and presenting his lantern slides. This work helps to understand how they were made. A label attached to the cover glass and the image includes the title, the date and sometimes process information or Stieglitz’s signature.
The label is pre-printed with “Alfred Stieglitz, New York.” and a blank line. Writing in black ink, Stieglitz filled in the image's title or location, and very often a year. We also can find the later numeration added on pencil by Georgia O’Keffe or Doris Bry after Stieglitz’s death.
Stieglitz’s name appears more frequently pre-printed than handwritten. Twelve of the objects in the collection have this label while only one carries his signature (see figure 15, bottom detail).
Under UVA radiation, the paper of these label fluoresces with different color (brighter yellow) that the window mat and binding tape, which shows different composition of the paper, sizing or different adhesive.
In all the examples that still have the original presentation there are number-letter combinations written in pencil. These correspond to a later numeration that is usually called “O’ Keeffe’s numbers;” such as “66-D” in figure 14 and “120-E” in figure 15. Although there is no clear explanation for the meaning of these numbers, they may refer to the negative. When the combination matches for two photographs, the image is always the same though probably with some variation in presentation, whether cropped in a different way or mounted in a different orientation (something common in the series The Equivalents). When the numbers but not the letters are the same, two things quite different outcomes are found: either the images are variations of the same view, probably taken very close in time, or they seem completely unrelated. These observations are based on a viewing of the entire collection of Stieglitz prints at George Eastman House. By itself, this small group of lantern slides doesn’t provide much information about O’Keeffe’s numbers. All the images are different and so is the numeration, though there are two examples where the image is almost the same (see top edges of figures 27 and 28). In both we have the image of Grindelwald Glacier very similarly framed. The number coincides (112) but not the letter, which is B in one example and C in the other. There is also other type of inscription by Georgia O’ Keeffe that can be found in some prints and in eight of the lantern slides at George Eastman House collection: “EK.” When compared with the fact that some prints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art are marked with the abbreviation “MET,” this suggests a designation for O'Keeffe's chosen institution for particular objects. If true, then “EK” probably means “Eastman Kodak,” assigned to the group of photographs that now are part of Stieglitz’s estate at George Eastman House. An interesting inscription that appears on some of Stieglitz's prints and one of his lantern slides is a capital “A.” It was written by the photographer himself and refers to his grading of the print quality. An “A” print is what he was looking for after several proofs:
“But I try and try until I get what I want… I reject all others – but what I am after is the A.1 – One from each negative.”
Another characteristic of most of Stieglitz’s lantern slides are two round stickers near the top corners, which indicate the correct orientation of the image in the slide changer of a magic lantern or projector.
The original marks are either black or uncolored paper (see figure 19, top corners); the red ones don’t correspond to Stieglitz’s period. The uncolored ones are not always placed on the top edge. They can appear at the bottom and are used for the inclusion of a pencil or ink number (compare for instance the use of the black and the uncolored stickers in figure 2).
The paper tabs present in some examples under the binding tape along the edges are a great example of Stieglitz’s work mounting his slides. In figure 19 we can see three paper tabs on left, right and top edges holding the glasses from front to back (figure 20, notice the masked image going further the window). They seem to be adhesive paper that was placed by Stieglitz to keep the plate and the cover glass together during the binding process.
The entire group of Alfred Stieglitz lantern slides at George Eastman House was made with gelatin dry plates. For exposing the original image on location, Stieglitz published his preference for brands like Lumière Ortho or Schuessner Ortho:
“The pictures taken during my trip were made with Lumière ortho and Schleussner ortho plates. The latter are probably the more reliable (…) The plates are extremely rapid and do not necessitate the use of color screen. Although having various lenses with me, I invariably used the Zeiss anastigmat 1: 7 •••, with a Thornton – Pickhard time and instantaneous shutter. Most of the plates were developed during the trip at night. All my pictures were taken on plates; my experience with films never having been very fortunate.”
When it came to making the positive from that negatives, he specifically mentions his preference for Carbutt plates over those from Eastman. He considered Eastman plates too slow and found that their exposure times needed to be between 35 and 45 times longer than for Carbutt plates. In addition to longer exposures, a stronger developer was needed for Eastman plates.
In this paper Stieglitz described the case of stained Carbutt plates after processing, a problem that he thought was caused by the developer (hydroquinone). After testing the developer and comparing the results to Eastman plates, he concluded that that the stain was caused for using an old batch of Carbutt plates:
“The Carbutt slide emulsion deteriorates in a much shorter time than the Eastman, probably due to the excess of iodide of silver in it, used to make the emulsion works clear. In a slow plate, like Eastman, the amount of iodine of silver, if used at all, cannot be very great.”
It is not easy to tell whether a slide was made in camera (with reversal development) or copied from a negative. Four reasons support the idea that Stieglitz's slides were copied from negatives. First, in some cases, the date of the image that was previous to the making of the slide or to the time he was a member of The Camera Club of New York. Second, for getting the color he wanted prior to the toning step, he needed to control the exposure time very well, something that is much harder to do in camera. Third, some of the images printed as lantern slides were also printed on paper, so an original negative probably exists. And finally, Stieglitz mentions the use of a reduction camera when he recommends using the more sensitive Carbutt plates for copying on a dark day.
Alfred Stieglitz cared a lot about the tone of his lantern slides. Most of the lantern slides exhibit some sort of color and not just the common neutral tone.
On the one hand, most of the untoned lantern slides have a slight warm tone, being neutral only in very few examples. For his “artistic work,” that is how he called it, Stieglitz preferred warm tone images while black is acceptable for other subjects. The color of the plate depends on silver particle size, which varies depending on the silver halides in the emulsion and the exposure and developer times. At the time Alfred Stieglitz was using dry plates, there were many products based on bromide–chloride or bromide–iodine combinations that gave warmer tone that the later just bromide based emulsions (see previous quotation about the amount of iodine in Carbutt plates). During the exposure and the processing of the plate, you can get smaller particle size by using a long exposure and weak developer. This is the key for obtaining warmer tones.
On the other hand, there are some very attractive toned examples that exhibit colors from brown to red or blue. Stieglitz had a very particular way of toning his lantern slides, partially, completely, with one or two colors.
Stieglitz gave considerable thought to the process and shared his methods in the journals of the period. In 1892, The Photographic Times published his talk before The Society of Amateur Photographers of New York about the use of uranium nitrate salts for toning lantern slides. In this article, Stieglitz gave his formulas and instructions for obtaining six different image tones from blue to red. Five years later, in The Amateur Photographer, he published other toning formulas, for achieving blue, green and red tones (here, only red is uranium nitrate-based too) He also described what he called local and partial toning based in gold chloride.
I will start by describing Stieglitz’s formulas based in the use of uranium salts. The toning is done directly on the processed plate. A bleaching step is not necessary, something that differs with the methods he would suggest in 1897. Before the toning process, Stieglitz gives some recommendations for processing the plates:
“Give full exposure, and develop with any ordinary developer until the slide looks somewhat flatter than it is to appear when finished; in other words, the highest lights must have a silver deposit in them, and not be clear glass.”
This is an important point to keep in mind for the next chapter about the color of highlights areas. This method can explain the existence of color and not just clear glass where there is no image. After fixing and washing properly, the next three stock solutions were prepared for toning.
A. Uranium Nitrate in water (1:100)
B. Potassium Ferrycianide in water (1:100)
C. Perchloride of iron in water (1:10) The basic principle of his formula is based on different mixtures and dilutions of these three solutions. The theory is that by mixing uranium nitrate and potassium ferricyanide (Solutions A + B), warm tones are obtained. The more uranium (Solution A), the darker brown the tone; while more potassium ferricyanide (Solution B) the redder the tone. On the other hand, mixing uranium nitrate and potassium ferricyanide (Solutions A + B) with perchloride of iron (Solution C), produces a blue–green tone. The more iron, the bluer the color. Applying the solutions locally you can get more than one color in the same image.
The directions given by Stieglitz in his paper are easy to understand and include all the details for preparing the chemicals, making the process, and the timing for the different baths.
It would be of great interest to know the examples he displayed during the lecture to know what color exactly he was referring to. The lack of this information requires us to guess what he meant by “chocolate brown” or “reddish–brown tones,” for instance.
Some of the examples have an overall warm tone that ranges from quite dark brown to bright red, as we can see in following examples. We have also to consider that the tone is also based on density of the original image prior to toning. So, the same toner can produce a variety of tones.
So far, only Solutions A and B have been included in the formulas for getting warm tone images. Solution C (iron based) is incorporated in the process when greenish and bluish tones are sought. The beautiful effects of this toning was specially recommended and used by Alfred Stieglitz as we see in this quotation. His words are represented in following figures 24, 25 and 26:
“The tone attained in this manner is an excellent one for seascapes and moonlight effects especially.”
In this other article, Stieglitz gives recipes for getting blue, green and red tones as well as other effects with what he calls “partial toning.” It is interesting how Stieglitz points out in this paper that all the slides made during that year were toned by the following formulas. Unlikely, none of the examples at George Eastman House are from 1896-1897 but he might have used the same method before and later.
Before toning the lantern slide, some considerations should be taken during the processing of the plate. Stieglitz suggests developing the plate with hydroquinone, until “the image has totally disappeared when examining the plate by transmitted light.” After fixing with hypo, Stieglitz describes the resulted image as “muddy and flat,”  without gradation of tones and hard to see. This appearance is necessary for following operations.
For getting the desired color, Stieglitz starts with a very dark slide that is locally bleached or reduced in order to build up tone values. This is the formula for bleaching agent.
A. 1% solution of ferricyanide of potassium
B. 100 parts of hyposulphite of soda solution (10% in water) and 15 drops of ferricyanide of potassium solution (10% in water)
The plate is immersed directly from the fixing bath into the Solution A, where the image is reduced. As soon as the image is fairly visible, the reduction should be stopped by dipping the plate in water.
The image will be still thick and flat but it is ready for receiving local reducing treatment. The slide is then placed in Solution B and with a brush the image is reduced gradually only in some areas. The plate should be rinsed in water after every one or two strokes of the brush to avoid leaving brush marks that would be very visible when projecting the slide.
“It is by this method that some of those striking snow scenes, shown during the winter, were produced. Originally the slides of these were considerably overtimed and overdeveloped, and then reduced in the above described manner.”
After the bleaching step, the slide can be toned in different solutions in order to achieve blue, green or Bartolozzi red colors, as is described in the following table. Reduced slides should be allowed to dry before toning is performed.
Alfred Stieglitz called “partial toning” to the effect he could get dipping the slide for a short time into the gold chloride solution (15 gr. of gold chloride in 1 oz of water). The partial deposit of gold produces a range of colors such as purples, blues, reds, greys, blue – black, etc, depending on the original color of the slide and the length of the toning bath.
“Many of the snow scenes before mentioned were made like this.”
Alfred Stieglitz also published his method for combining the effects of the different baths in different areas. He mentioned using a brush for applying the colors, controlling the colors not to run to each other.
Stieglitz procedures as follow: the plate needs to be put in water to make the gelatin swell. Then, the gold chloride solution is applied with the brush in the areas where the blue color is desired. When this step is done, the rest of the colors are locally applied.
“Some of the Venetian scenes in which water, sky, a few houses and gondolas make up the picture, treated in this manner, show up beautifully.” (see figure 24)
The George Eastman House collection has an exceptional example of these experiments: the slide Grindelwald Glacier. Experiment in local toning (figure 28), shows blue color just in the areas with snow. The rest of the landscape shows a warm brown tone (see chapter about analysis).
This effect is more evident if we compare the previous example with figure 26, in which the same image has been overall blue toned.
Apart from image tone we have to consider another interesting aspect in Stieglitz’s lantern slides: non-image area tone. Either warm-toned or blue-toned examples show a lack of transparency in highlights.
“Clear glass for high lights and transparent shadows did not constitute a perfect slide (…) A first – class slide, we will not speak of perfection, very rarely contains clear glass, the lack of tone in any part of it being a serious defect (…) A luminous body only should be represented by clear glass.”
As mentioned in the previous chapter, this was done during the development of the slide, fogging the image in order to leave a deposit of silver in highlights. But Stieglitz makes the point:
“Veil and fog are not synonymous in this case. Fog is always to be avoided in slides.”
Figures 22 and 23 show how the brown and red color is overall; there is not a complete clear area in the entire image.
Figures 24, 25 and 27, were blue toned but there is an overall pinkish color. This effect is very slight but comparing with a clear glass or a white surface it is evident that there is a pink tone in highlights.
Finally, untoned examples might have also this effect in highlights. This is the case of figure 28. The image tone in this example is quite warm, probably due to the characteristics of the plate emulsion and not to a toning process. An overall light blue tone covers the whole image, being more evident in the highlights.
In the cases where the color in highlights is not the same as the image (as in figures 24, 25, 27 and 29) the gelatin could have been dyed with much diluted blue and pink dyes.
But this is likely not true considering Stieglitz’s personal opinion about coloring slides:
“(…) by coloured slides I refer to photographically coloured ones, and not those tinted by hand with aniline dyes. Those can hardly be included within the limits of legitimate photography.”
In the cases where the highlights have the same tone as the whole image, it is an effect caused by the toning process. As mentioned before, Stieglitz recommended developing the plates in a way that a silver deposit is left in highlights. If this is properly done, an overall toning is expected, with non clear glass areas.
Material analysis would prove whether there is final image in the skies and highlights or just dyed gelatin.
Before this project, the overall condition of the collection was fair. Existing records do not allow us to trace the condition of these lantern slides since their arrival at George Eastman House in 1952. However, it is known that four examples were rebound with a plastic tape, probably in the 1960s or '70s.
Also, the original wooden box housing the lantern slides was dropped in the past and six slides suffered the consequences. This broken group was rebound and stabilized in 1980s. The system employed at that time was functional, but without aesthetic appeal. The repaired slides were just sandwiched between two sheets of glass or glass and a polyester sheet and then rebound in a P90 tape border. The increased width of the package made it impossible for these objects to be returned to their original container and they are now housed separately in an archival box.
As part of this project the following ten examples have been treated:
The most common problems in the group were cover glass deterioration and breakage. In three cases, the cover glass was in pieces (Maria Bellagio, Experiment in local toning and [Peasant working in the field]) and was replaced with one of the same thickness.
The slide [Peasant working in the field] was one of those where the tape was added in 1960s or ‘70s. This plastic tape had no historical value and was discarded during the treatment and replaced by P90 toned with a color similar to the original tapes.
The other two examples, Maria, Bellagio and Experiment in local toning,, still preserved the original labels and binding tape attached to the broken cover glasses. These attachments were removed with local application of water, combinations of water and ethanol, or just with dry methods in those areas with soluble inks.
When only the plate, as in the case of A Dutch Woman, or both the plate and the cover glass were broken, as in A hook in Pallanza and A bit of Katwijk, the criteria was to glue the pieces with Paraloid B-.72 (25% in toluene) and add a new piece of glass as a support. In all these cases, a new binding tape was required to secure the package. Filmoplast P90 toned with acrylic color was used for this purpose. The original labels and binding tapes were then placed back over this added tape in a way that preserved the original appearance of the objects.
Apart from these physical damages, it seems that the environmental storage conditions weren’t always the most advisable. Around half of the collection has problems of silver mirroring (see figure 30) or glass deterioration.
Glass deterioration has taken place in ten examples. In most of the cases, it has happened on both sides of the cover glass. Normally this deterioration only occurs on the inner side of the glass which faces a closed environment with no air ventilation.
The presence of glass deterioration on the outside of the cover glasses is likely due to the method employed in storing the lantern slides. The original box keeps the slides in a vertical position with each very close to the next one. The gap between the covers is so small that moisture can be trapped.
The figures 31-34 document the advanced glass deterioration in Moonlight off the Battery, New York, 1895.
The reason why I think glass deterioration is present also on the outside of the glass is due to the way the lantern slides are stored. The original box keeps the slides in vertical position one very close to the next one. The distance between each other is so short that moisture can be trapped inside.
Based on the historical references, Stieglitz’s lantern slide collection at GEH might have been or not toned with the described formulas. Visual examination is not enough to verify this fact. In order to know how these examples were toned, non-destructive techniques of examination and analysis were applied.
The preliminary idea was to try to pick up the elements in the toning without opening the actual package and disturbing the original tape and labels.
Although the image plate and cover glass of these lantern slides are very thin (around 1.3mm for the actual plate and just 1mm for the cover glass), it was assumed that each would behave as a barrier in the analysis process. Therefore, testing which techniques would take a reading through a sheet of glass and which would not was also part of the experience.
So far, three different techniques have been proposed: a Geiger counter for picking up Uranium, UVA and XRF examination.
A Geiger counter tells us if there is a radioactive isotope in the material for analysis. Natural Uranium 238 emits alpha particles as its primary radiation and because of their charge and large mass, alpha particles are easily absorbed by materials and can travel only a few centimeters in air. They can be absorbed by paper but can't penetrate a sheet of glass. The hypothesis was to try to get a signal in the areas close to the tape where some tear might have occurred. The signal wouldn’t come through the paper but the paper in the tape could have some residual exposed uranium salts.
From the total of twenty-nine lantern slides in the collection, fourteen examples were chosen for testing. These are the ones that show some sort of toning from warm brown to red or blue. In all the examples the signal reaching the Geiger counter was low and was considered “background.” Only two examples (figure 4 and 19) with warm tone emit a higher signal but not significant enough to draw a conclusion.
Before the experiment, it was known that the chances of getting a signal through the glass were pretty low. Despite its thinness, the cover glass behaves as a barrier to the Geiger counter. We could prove that with a piece of Uranium glass; the strong signal produced was fast diminished when making the reading through a lantern slide.
Apart from the cover glass, the residual uranium in the photograph was not enriched uranium so the amount of radioactive material left in the image after the process may be very low and difficult to detect.
Ultraviolet radiation is a non-destructive examination and documentation technique that has been used broadly in the conservation field. In paper conservation, it is commonly used for detecting previous repairs, mold or adhesive residues not apparent under visible light.
The twenty-nine examples in the collection were examined under UVA (commonly known as long wave, between 320 and 400 nm) and UVC radiation (UVC, referred to as shortwave, between 180 and 280 nm) to see what type of information we could get.
Uranium fluoresces under UVA radiation with a strong yellow–green color. The examples were laid out on the table and both sides radiated. The results after our UV examination were again non- conclusive. UVC cannot penetrate glass while UVA penetrates somewhat, but not enough.
None of the images fluoresced and toned examples didn’t fluoresce when emulsion side was UV radiated. Three of the lantern slides with broken cover glass were rebound and stabilized in the past. A piece of Mylar added as a support is a strong UV barrier.
It was concluded that again the cover glass is an impediment even to UVA radiation.
The original tape and rest of adhesive around fluoresce with a yellowish–orange color.
X–rays fluorescence spectroscopy is a non–destructive technique that provides information about the inorganic elements in a photograph. It has the advantage of seeing selectively layers, so it is very appropriate for what we are looking for: detecting the type of toning.
Several scientists were consulted about the possibility of getting a reading through the cover glass with the XRF portable device that were brought from Buffalo State College. None of them could give a definite answer about this possibility but all agree that it was worthy to try. One of the first conclusions of the analysis was that the glass (either the cover glass or the plate itself) blocked the information and the reading couldn’t be done. After making this conclusion, all the following examples were analyzed directly, having opened the original binding tape and removed the cover glass, so they were in progress of being treated.
The questions that the historical research rose and that what were expected to be answer with the analysis were the following:
In all the examples the procedure was the same: a reading was made in d-max areas and then in d-min running up during 90 seconds each time at 40 Kv and 15 MA.
From the five examples analyzed the main conclusions we get is that warm tones plates were not toned (sulphide toned or gold toned) while the blue colors were made with gold chloride toning.
Case A. Lake and Mountains, 1894
Color in d-max: blue
Color in d-min: pinkish tone. Not completely transparent glass.
Result of analysis: gold toning
XRF readings were made directly on the d-max area of the image, with no cover glass. The graph shows a high presence of gold and a lack of silver. The blue color was reached with gold chloride toning, chemical process that implies a replacement of three silver atoms per each atom of gold. That can explain the lack of silver on the image. No bleaching step was required for getting this result. The other elements in the spectrum (Ca, Fe, Sr…) come from the glass plate.
Once it was verified the type of toning present in the plate, we tried obtaining the same information throw the cover glass. As we can see in the spectrum, the Au signal disappears while a new signal appears in the Arsenium area. It seems that only the information picked up comes from the glass. Arsenium was used in glass for making it clear, as we can see in the edges of the glass (white, while in other cover glasses and the actual plates the edges are green)
Comparing the reading without cover glass (red spectrum) with the readings through the cover glass (blue line spectrum) it becomes very evident how the information is blocked.
A reading through the glass plate was also unsuccessfully tried. Gold is also blocked by the elemental information of the glass (in this case, calcium-based glass, regular crown glass not arsenic). Since this object was tested with and without cover glass finding out that the last option wouldn’t work, the rest ones were directly analyzed with the cover glass removed.
XRF shows that the pinkish color in highlights also was obtained with gold chloride.
Case B. Experiment in local toning. Grindelwald Glacier, 1894
Color in d-max: brown
Color in d-min: blue
Result of analysis: gold and silver in brown areas, gold in blue
XRF readings in brown areas show the presence of gold in combination with silver.
The blue color in highlights seems to have been made also with gold chloride. In these areas the presence of silver diminishes considerably. It is hard to explain how the toning was performed to explain the differences between the brown (Ag + Au) and the blue (Au). Considering that gold chloride works as a bleaching agent itself, a higher concentration or longer time in the blue areas could explain the almost complete loss of silver. The application of these toning solutions seems to have been made locally with a brush, as Stieglitz explained in his 1897 article (chapter 4.3.2)
Overlapping both spectrums we can compare the amount of gold in the image (almost the same in d-max than in d-min) and the reduction of silver in highlights.
In the previous analyzed plate there were to presence of silver and a high content of gold. In Experiment in local toning the presence of gold is dramatically reduced and there is silver in brown areas.
Case C. The Terminal, New York, 1893
Color in d-max: warm brown
Color in d-min: warm tone
Result of the analysis: Silver
Although the image color in this example is very warm brown, there is no presence of toning in D-max area. Apart from some elements from the glass, only silver showed up in the spectrum. This can be explained with the incapacity of the XRF portable device to detect sulphur. So, there is no possibility of detecting shulphide tone with device.
There is some presence of silver also in highlights, but in smaller amounts than in shadows.
Case D. The Junfrau from Murren, Swiss, 1894
Color in d-max: warm brown
Color in d-min: transparent glass
Result of analysis: Silver
In both cases, just silver was detected. In this case the color is not as brown as in The Terminal, so sulphide toning is less probably expected. The warm tone can be just the consequence of the type of plate as well as the way of processing the plate.
Case E. [Pleasant working on field], ca.1890.
Color in d-max: warm brown
Color in d-min: transparent glass
Result of analysis: Silver
No toning detected in this case. There is just silver, with almost none in highlights.
The fact that making a reading through the cover glass or the glass plate was a significant issue in the analysis of lantern slides made us have some results from the analysis of the cover glasses and plates.
As it was described before, the cover glass in the example Lake and Mountains is Arsenium based. In this case and others ([Exhibition of photographic images and equipment], [Peasant working in the field] and The Terminal) the tape closing the package was not from Stieglitz’s lifetime. In those examples a new plastic tape was added in 1960s or 70s and the cover glass is very thin (1.3mm) and with clear edges, the glass is always arsenic. Because the object was rebound, the glass could have been replaced at that time (see graph 2).
In this and other cases where the cover glass was thicker (1.5mm) and with greenish edges, the glass was regular crown glass, calcium based (see graph 16). The same composition was found in the actual glass plates (see graph 17).
Different plates had different composition and spectrum. Although this subject hasn’t been deeply researched in this project, it is interesting to notice differences in composition that could be related to different |plate brands (see graph 18, were the amount of Fe, Sr and Zn vary).
The writing of the history of photography has traditionally been based on the photographer’s biography, images and publications. Very rarely have the examination techniques and tools used in the conservation lab been applied to the main questions about the masters in photography.
Conservation treatments provide rich information that normally remains hidden in a treatment report which is never published. This project is a good example of how historical research can be complemented by a conservator’s observations. Trained to look at photographs in a very practical way, conservators consider them as objects, looking beyond the images and examining the prints on a intimate level with magnifying and analytical tools.
The treatment of ten of Alfred Stieglitz’s lantern slides gave me a good idea of the structure of the whole group. Stieglitz used the same format, type of labeling, binding tape and adhesive for most of them. The historical information shows that he used different type of dry plates and the XRF analysis revealed different compositions in the glass plates as well as the cover glasses. While this project hasn’t gone into detail on the subject, it opens the door for those who would like go further in the comparison of glass composition.
Another subject on which light has been shed, though not all questions answered, is toning. Uranium wasn’t found in any of the warm or blue-toned examples analyzed with XRF. However, further analysis of those images with reddish or purple tones may reveal the presence of uranium.
I would say that the whole topic of treating lantern slides has never been properly approached. Generally, the most common interventions are based in the replacement of broken cover glasses and rebinding. In many cases, original binding tapes have been pulled apart, discarded and replaced -- sometimes more than once for a given slide. However, in the case of Stieglitz’s lantern slides the peculiarity of their presentation -- with the presence of labels and information written along the paper tape -- the loss of original bindings through a reluctance for treatment would have been a big error. Instead, the purest criteria in intervention have resulted in almost inappreciable treatments. The slides have been stabilized and can be handled securely but there is no aesthetic change or improvement; nor is there any loss of written information.
Considerations relating to the proper storage of lantern slide collections should be also reviewed. The historical wooden box where the objects continue to be housed has shown some deficiencies in environmental protection. The observations made upon the presence of glass deterioration on the outside of the cover glass remind us of the open question about glass deterioration and its consequences on photographs.
This research project has raised many questions and doubts. As has already been said, in the past, results of this project would remain hidden in a report. Now, findings can be shared with other professionals through the posting of information to an internet resource, like the Wiki. Not only will this help to disseminate observations to other institutions holding Stieglitz’s photographs, but hopefully will encourage others to do the same.
AUER, Michael, The illustrated history of the camera, from 1839 to the present, New York Graphic Society, Boston, 1975.
COE, Brian, Cameras/ from daguerreotypes to instant pictures, New York, Crown Publishers, 1978.
DANZING, Rachel, “Alfred Stieglitz: photographic processes and related conservation issues”, Topics in Photographic Conservation, volume 4, AIC / PMG, 1991, pp. 57 – 79.
GREENOUGH, Sarah and HAMILTON, Juan, Alfred Stieglitz. Photographs and writings, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1983.
GREENOUGH, Sarah, Alfred Stieglitz: the key set: the Alfred Stieglitz collection of photographs, (2 vols), National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 2002.
MULLIGAN, Theresa (ed.), The Photography of Alfred Stieglitz. Georgia O’ Keeffe’s Enduring Legacy, George Eastman House, New York, 2000.
WINGFIELD, Valerie, “Camera Club of New York. Records, 1889 – 1983”, The New York Public Library Humanities and Social Sciences Library Manuscripts and Archives Division, 1993; 
“Mr. Stieglitz expulsion – A statement”, Camera Work, (April 1908), pp. 25-32
“Stieglitz out of the Camera Club”, New York Herald, (15 February 1908), pp. 7
Alfred Stieglitz and the lantern slide process
“Notes and news: the work of Mr. Alfred Stieglitz”, The Photographic Times and American Photographer 22 (22 January 1892), pp. 46
“The progress of Amateur Photography – some remarkable specimens of figure work”, Frank Leslie’s Weekly 74 (9 January 1892), pp. 402
“The annual lantern slide competition: note on the unsuccessful slides” The Amateur Photographer 18 (20 October 1893), pp. 263.
“Editorial table: foreign plates”, The American Amateur Photographer 6, (September 1894), pp. 432-433.
“Notes and Comments” [Stieglitz arrives in Europe], The Amateur Photographer, 40, (18 October 1904), pp.301 - 302
DAVISON, George, “To American Photographers” The American Amateur Photographer 6, (January 1894), pp.1-7.
DAVISON, George, “American Amateur Photographer Special Prize Competition, 1894: notes on some of the photographs”, The American Amateur Photographer, 7 (February 1895), pp.49-58.
STIEGLITZ, Alfred, “A day in Chioggia,” The Amateur Photographer, prize tour number (June 1889), p.pp.7-9
STIEGLITZ, Alfred, “Amateur photography: the work of Alfred Stieglitz”, Frank Leslie’s Weekly, pp.74 (3 March 1892)
STIEGLITZ, Alfred, “A plea for art photography in America”, Photographic Mosaics 28 (1892), pp. 133 -137.
STIEGLITZ, Alfred, “Experience with slide plates”, The American Amateur Photographer, vol. IV, Feb. 1892, pp.61 – 63.
STIEGLITZ, Alfred, “Toning slides with uranium salts, and a few additional remarks on the color of slides in general”, The Photographic Times, January 22, 1892, pp.42-43
STIEGLITZ, Alfred, with R.M. Shurtleff and Charles Ehrmann, “Photographic Times Competition”, The Photographic Times and American Photographer 24 (20 April 1894) pp.242-243
STIEGLITZ, Alfred, [Untitled], The American Amateur Photographer 6, (September 1894), pp.431 - 433
STIEGLITZ, Alfred with Louis H. SCHUBART, “Two artists haunts”, The Photographic Times, vol. XXVI, Jan. 1895, pp.12]
STIEGLITZ, Alfred, “Some remarks on lantern slides. A method of developing partial and local toning”, The Amateur Photographer 24, (10 September 1897), 203-204. Reprinted in Camera Notes 1 (October 1897), 32-39; The Photographic News 3 (1 October 1897), 645 -647; The American Amateur Photographer 9 (October 1897), 445 – 485; and Photographisque Mitteilungen 34 (November 1897), pp242-243.
STIEGLITZ, Alfred, “Lantern slide compensating cover glasses”, The American Amateur Photographer, 11 (February 1899), pp.58-61.
STIEGLITZ, Alfred, “A tip”, Down Town Topics, 4 (July 1905), pp.1-2
Lantern slides manuals
Lantern slides/ How to make and color them, Rochester NY, Eastman Kodak Company, s.d.(1934?)
Lantern slides, Rochester NY, Eastman Kodak Company, s.d. (1936?)
CHADWICK, William Isacc, The magic lantern manual, London, F. Warne, pref. 1885 (2nd ed)
HUGHES, W.C., The art of projection and complete magic lantern manual / by an expert, London : E. A. Beckett, 1893.
PIKE, J., Lantern slides: their production and use, Bradford, Eng. : Percy Lund, 1896 (2nd ed)
DRESSER, A. R., Lantern slides and how to make them, New York : Scovill & Adams, 1892 (2nd ed. rev.)
BUZIT TRAGNI, Claire, The use of ultraviolet – induced visible fluorescence for examination of photographs. Research report. Advanced Residency Program in Photograph Conservation. July 11, 2005.
GLINSMAN, Lisha, “The practical application of air-path X ray fluoresce spectrometry in the analysis of museum objects” in Reviews in Conservation, vol. 6, pp.3-18
GLINSMAN, Lisha, “X-rays fluorescence spectrometry in the analysis of museum objects”, Reviews in Conservation, vol. 6, pp. 3-18.
Rosina Herrera was an ARP fellow from 2005 to 2007. This independent study grew out of Rosina's contribution to the capstone project of ARP fellow Luisa Casella. Currently, Rosina is a photograph conservator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, New York.