Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Beautiful, Wonderful and Historic Fort Payne by John Dersham

We live in a wonderful town. It is very scenic and is full of friendly people. It is a wonderful place to work and to do business and it is a fantastic town to raise a family. The Boom Days of Fort Payne helped give our town a very distinct history, visually and culturally, Fort Payne is very special and quite different town from any other in Alabama.
Some of you may know I am a photographer with a perpetual darkroom for nearly 50 years. I am also a history buff. The combination of the two interests allows me an opportunity and the desire to combine my interests toward preservation of historical photographs.
Last summer Judy and Joe Brown were nice enough to entrust me with their 6x8 Glass Plates (negatives) taken in the late 1880’s for a brochure of Fort Payne with the intent of promoting Fort Payne to New Englanders as a prosperous and upcoming industrial town focusing on coal and iron. The brochure would hopefully inspire new business and industry to move their operations to Fort Payne. The plates themselves are unusual in that they are 6x8 instead of the customary 5x7, which was popular at the time. It is believed the original camera that took the pictures is the one that is part of the Landmarks of DeKalb County Inc., archives.
The plates that I am printing will be done on 11x14 silver rich bromide photographic paper which is archival in nature and will provide a look similar to the papers of the subject matter era. I am using archival chemistry and putting the images through a selenium toning process that turns the silver to selenium, which is more stable. I will dry mount the images using 100% acid free rag mounts with acid free dry mounting tissue. The expected life of the prints is 300 years. In order for the prints to be archival, no retouching can be done on the prints. This means whatever is on the negative will show on the print. Over time many of the negatives have scratched, or patches of the emulsion have come off. At the same time I make the prints I will make a high resolution digital file on Cd. Once the images are digital then the blemishes can be removed for future digital printing or publication.
The prints (approximately 35), will be a donation from me and my family to Landmarks of DeKalb County Inc. Judy Brown has told me they plan on exhibiting the prints in Hunt Reception Hall. I am honored to play a role in helping preserve our rich history here in Fort Payne.