Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgic

Growing up I spent many an hour at my grandparent’s home. Yet it was only after my grandfather, Claude Worcester (May 11, 1891 – July 01, 1969), died that I learned of, or perhaps began to appreciate, his interest in art. At age 16 I was already seriously interested in photography, and so I came into possession of his Seneca Chautauqua folding bed camera for 4×5 inch glass plates. I’m not sure anyone in our family was even aware of this camera’s existence.

The camera was built after 1904. Considering the Kodak Brownie was introduced in 1900, my grandfather’s purchase of a glass plate camera demonstrates a certain level of commitment to photography as an art. As a worker on the line in a shoe factory, obtaining this camera must have involved financial sacrifice as well.

In the box with the camera were several prints, glass negatives and a box of unexposed plates. None of the prints or negatives were of his wife or children. Did he put the camera away upon his marriage in 1917?

This artifact leaves me with many questions. What drives a person to pursue art against odds? Did family obligations force him to set aside this passion? What happens to a person when they are forced to give up a love? Could my grandfather’s art influenced me, even though I never saw him take a single photograph? This photo essay is an exploration of those topics.

Photography then and now: The Seneca Chautaqua Camera
Photography then and now: The Seneca Chautauqua Camera
My grandfather's camera
My grandfather’s camera

I scanned the un-printed glass negatives. The images are presented in the gallery below. The woman feeding the chickens is my grandfather’s mother. No one alive today knows who the other people are.

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3 Comments

  1. “A spirit in my feet said ‘go,’ and I went,” is how Brady later explained his motivation for taking his photographic practice into the field during the Civil War. The grandfather of American war correspondents, Brady used the fortune he had made from his successful New York portrait studio to place dozens of photographers, like Alexander Gardner, in various parts of the theater of operations during the war. By his own estimate Brady spent nearly $100,000 on this pioneering endeavor. After suffering great losses in the financial panic of 1873, Brady was temporarily rescued from financial ruin by an act of Congress authorizing the purchase of his daguerreotypes for the nation. An archive of over 7,500 of the Brady Studio’s Civil War glass negatives came to the Library in 1943.

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