What might a French child of the early 1900s cherish and keep in hidden tin box? In this case: Images of “a very special cat! This photo was shot 120 years ago by a little girl and only a century later you can admire it,” wrote Paris-based French photographer Mathieu Stern. “I found the glass plate negative in a time capsule with other objects and I used the cyanotype process to print this image and show it to you.”
Stern’s video introduces the child’s treasures, including images of two beloved pet cats and a dog, found in a silver solder ingot tin hidden in his old family home in Paris. He then developed the cyanotypes, blue and white prints made from the newly-discovered negatives, with 1800s-era chemistry. From Wikipedia:
Engineers used the process well into the 20th century as a simple and low-cost process to produce copies of drawings, referred to as blueprints. The process uses two chemicals: ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide.
Discussion prompts: What things might you keep in a time capsule? What images would you include? What would you ask the little girl about what she kept in hers?
Related exploration: Learn about English botanist and (perhaps the first female) photographer Anna Atkins and her book, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions.
Related DIY activity: SunPrint Paper Kit (affiliate link).
Then watch these videos about photography next:
• Photography, from camera obscura to camera phone
• Henry Fox Talbot, the First Photographs, and the Pioneers of Photography
• Conservation of an 1842 daguerreotype, one of the oldest photographs at MoMA
Also, another time capsule: Voyager and the Golden Record, Humanity’s ambitious expedition into interstellar space.
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