Variants of Lewis Hine’s ‘’Powerhouse Mechanic’’ in the George Eastman House collection have been examined using a variety of approaches as part of a larger collaborative research project to explore and refine the methods by which the caretakers of photographs articulate, document, and share meaningful information about the material characteristics of photographic prints.
These approaches to understanding and documenting the material features of the photograph include visual observation of print surface characteristics, imaging at the microscopic level, and the use of analytical technologies such as X-Ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy (XRF) and paper fiber analysis. The intent is to determine what can be observed with a trained eye in appropriate lighting conditions, and which material characteristics require higher levels of investigation. These higher levels include, for example, magnification to observe greater detail of the layer structure of a photograph and paper fiber analysis to determine elemental or paper fiber composition.
In September 2008 Paul Messier participated in a collaborative research project with the staff of Notes-on Photographs to apply a methodology developed at the Paul Messier studio for dating photographic papers. Messier is well known for his involvement in determining the authenticity of many Lewis Hine prints scrutinized during the forgery scandal that was brought to attention in 1999. The ‘’Powerhouse Mechanic’’ variants as well as additional Hine material was selected for analysis.