Sunday, April 12, 2009

TINTYPE PHOTO - Through the Lens in 1860

There is something that happens when you gaze at a photo of a person’s face. The presence and personality make a mark of recognition, even with strangers and people unfamiliar with our own lives. This connection spans generations. Going back in time we can see how the faces are etched with the concerns of the day, how the innocence shines in the face of a child, the look of hope mixed with fear on a twenty year old bride and the wisdom of the aged reflected through wrinkled eyes. A photo brings us to our common humanity.

The tintype photo process was the cheap and accessible form of photography in the mid 19th century America. Tintype photography, also known as melainotype and ferrotype was first described by Adolphe-Alexandre Martin in France in 1853 and patented in the United States in 1856 by Hamilton Smith, a professor at Kenyon College in Ohio. Previous techniques pioneered in France for commercial use were copper plate Daguerreotypes in 1839 and glass plate Ambrotypes in 1854. These techniques evolved to using tin plates, a cheaper and more durable technology at the time. The tintype was actually on iron that had been coated with black enamel. The plate was coated with wet collodian and a light sensitive silver nitrate for exposure inside the camera.

The process was simple, fairly inexpensive compared to other previous photo processes and made accessible to eager photographic subjects willing to give a few silver coins in exchange for a portrait. Tintype photographs were, mostly, an American phenomenon. In the years of the Civil War tintype photographers set up at carnivals, on river boats, Northern and Southern war encampments and most places where they could find eager customers. People posed in the photographer’s tent studios, with painted backdrops mimicking the formal painter’s aesthetic for portraiture. The subjects would bring their own props and dress according to their “Sunday best”. The exposures were long by today’s standards and forced the sitters into uncomfortable positions. The photo subjects have expressions of seriousness or even a dower look. Most people had never before posed for a photograph by a professional photographer using a mystical system of glass lenses and an alchemical array of ingredients. It was a serious matter. It was like being confronted by a three legged mythological Cyclops. Very few tintype photos from the twenty year period that this process reigned show spontaneous snapshots from actual non-posed life.

Floating river boat photography studio in the 1860's

Some cameras used multiple lenses to expose two or more images at once on the tin plates. These were then cut roughly with tin snips and placed into either a paper frame or, for an extra price, into elegant small hinged leather and gilded copper frames. Since these photos were generally small in size, they could fit into a locket or could be sent easily by mail inside an envelope. For the first time, having a portrait made was no longer the privilege of the wealthy class only. Anyone could have their photo taken.

These images were drawn from Melanie Walker’s collection of tintype photography and gathered since the mid nineteen seventies. They were found in antique shops from coast to coast and across the country. Some were found recently on EBay. What may stand out is that these photos are of ‘rescued’ ancestors. They are photos abandoned by their families for whatever reasons and left for the larger world to gaze upon. Whether the eye to eye connection is made while thumbing through a family album in a second hand shop or on the wall of a museum photographic exhibit, the recognition is still evident. Here is a picture of a life that was lived gazing out at a world not so different. Today’s photo technology is only slightly faster and more easily disseminated by emailing digital photos of the new baby or sharing a friend’s face on a social networking site. Where will our photos be in 150 years time? Will our portraits look out at a very different world that would then reflect on our simple and primitive means of showing our faces?

The following tintype photos are samples from the show. There are approximately one hundred and twenty images in the exhibition. Most are very small at between 3" to 1" square.

For more images from the show and other researched tintype photos go to the Gallery O Flickr slide show
The show opens April 17th and continues through May.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Udvardy Bogi is a Hungarian artist, living in Budapest who makes miniature rooms and other hand sized artworks. In the rooms are objects of everyday use, a chair, a pillow, a book, a stool. But within these miniatures are stories with the unmistakable marks of a careful hand using flights of fantasy and imaginative worlds both private and revealing. She uses the miniature format to concentrate these places into hand held wonders. The following images are from her collection.


Transylvania Room

Chinese Food

African Room

Memento Morti

Paris - Snow Globe

Eyeglass Lens Rooms

Travel Time Menus

Vodafone project - Street Home

Lovas - Dream Picture

An internet-interview with Udvardy Bogi…

GEO – Your works are wonderful. The miniature room series is especially intriguing. Tell me about what started you making the maquette series of rooms.

BOGI - It began from the Secondary School of Fine and Applied Art. When I was 18, I never wanted to go to any house-parties or drinking with the others. Maybe it was the depression, I do not know exactly. I was always alone in my room puttering with something. One year later, I started making the small interiors and they began to be my real world. At the time I was reading the books of Agatha Christie and from many other writers. I love the classical English style. “The Little Library”,”The Old Wall” and the detective-novels. The 1920 to the 1930 periods inspire me.

Later, when I traveled to Rome (Clock menus), to Paris (French bathroom) and to Prague, all of these countries inspired me with something…the lifestyle, the fashion, the history, the people’s behavior and their culture. Later I started to make some miniatures and maquettes. (Memento mori, Clocks, Sunday play, Poppyhouse Maison). These rooms were are not just simple models but are situations, attitudes and dreams. They may seem a little bit strange or morbid but I like the beautiful "pink rose" effect with a little black humor.

GEO - Are these actual rooms or are they imaginary rooms? The rooms have a haunting quality to them as if they are both very familiar and, at the same time, like peeking into someone else's life. How do you view the topics of privacy, interior life, the reduction of a person's things to objects that surround a sitting chair?

BOGI - All of my rooms are always imaginary, not actual. I think its a more interesting challenge to make something from a fantasy and not to copy from the real or actual. For example, I have made three rooms in the last year. The theme I chose was of foreign internationals living in Budapest. One of African, another was a Transylvanian and the third a Chinese living in Budapest. I wanted to introduce three typical rooms of three nations. I wanted to change some objects from my fantasy so I put some imaginary objects into the small room to demonstrate my personal idea of a life style from these three countries. They are imaginary interiors of what people have brought with themselves from their cultural homeland and to remind them of their own country.

GEO - Where have you shown your works?

BOGI - The Vodafone-street project was in Budapest and many other places in Hungary in 2008. The Three Room Project was in Budapest and Wien, Hungary, as well. These rooms were shown in a small spot in an MTV segment. I’m hoping that to make my own little exhibition of my small rooms.

GEO - How does photography fit in with your works? Some of the miniatures look like they were specifically arranged and lit for the camera. Do you think about the works being for the photo or the photograph being a vital part of the process?

BOGI – At the present time, the photos about my works are simple documentation. I don’t have any purpose or aim with the photography because it is enough to work and build the mini worlds. But I think the art of the maquette can go a long way with potentiality. I feel like I am only near the starting line with what may be possible in the creation of these interiors. Later, I see the possibilities of photography and start thinking about the interrelation between the photo and the maquette. The interface between the large and small is a new problem in the art and deserves some further explorations.

GEO – Talk a little about your 'Clock Menus' and the 'Snow Globes'. What is going on in these works?

BOGI - I spent two years with many trips and journeys abroad. During the travels I had an impression of airports with the convergence of many people, the differences between the nations and the business life that flows through the terminals. This work shows four slices of the nations and how I see the USA, London, Milan and Tokyo. The little snow globes were an experiment to make the a series without a Santa Claus in them.

GEO - The 'Vodafone' street landscape in an exhibition case on the street…. Describe what this piece is about.

BOGI - The international telecommunication company, Vodafone has a foundation. This company has a program that supports disabled people like the blind, deaf and handicapped. My work demonstrated the street lifestyle of the homeless people. In the mini landscape I show a park with plants and trees, where the homeless people live. But the park was like a room. In the room was a park bench, like a sofa in a home. There were small pigeons as pets like parrots or canaries in a cage and the street light like a desk lamp. It shows they live in their own room, only it is outside the home but still has the same furniture.

GEO - And how about the subject of humor in your works. Some of the works have an infectious joy to them while others could be a little scary For example what’s the story behind 'Memento Mori” and about the small skeleton underground smelling the rose.

BOGI - Memento mori (remember the mortal) means to spend your life in good things without any sins. This was the basic idea. I like the black humor, I like
Tim Burton’s morbid world, and the Memento Mori is a gift to my friend, Istvan Bodoczky, a kite artist, who recently had an operation at a clinic. The message is everybody should live a good life, without any bad thoughts or evil deeds.

GEO - How many hours do you spend on a typical maquette?

BOGI - I spend sometimes four to twenty hours on one piece. It totally depends on the size and the detail.

GEO - What sort of subjects inspire you to make your miniature artworks?

BOGI - Everything inspires me, from the everyday situations or impressions of the world to one little fleck of glass or plastic that I find. From one little piece junk metal, for instance, I can build a little world around that piece or, on the other hand, I dream up a complete situation and I look for the small objects for it. I use things I find like refuse and trash. I never buy, for example, a complete set of finished goods or a ready made little chair or dish or other things your would find in shops. I construct everything from things most people throw away.

GEO - Talk about what your next project will be? I know you're already thinking about it.

BOGI - I want to work with glass. I use the eye-glass lenses for miniature rooms. I want to see how can I demonstrate the narrow field of view that eye glasses are about. I like to think about the concentrated vision of The Butterfly Collector or the eye put to the photographer’s lens. Other stories in the lenses include; the English chocolate dessert with a little glass of poison, the telephone chat about love with a white pigeon, the old sailor with his pack of cigarettes, the fast breakfast of a businessman and so on. I want to do some maquettes that imitate nature, the weather, the air, the seasons...


More works can be seen on his blog site at

or see these photos and more on the slide show

Monday, February 9, 2009


We attend kite festivals all over the world. The kites flown are sometimes of enormous proportions and not only carry away the imagination but sometimes the flyer on the end of the line as well. In many countries there are traditions of miniature kites. Sometimes they are made for fun or for gifts, sometimes to show the intricate mastership of the kite maker’s craft. Some are made with such light spars and papers that they literally float on a single strand of silken thread.

They can be made smaller than the wings of a fly. Some can fit into a pocket. At one kite festival in France we witnessed a small bat kite….made from the skin of a real bat. While visiting the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, and looking through the exhibits of kites, airplanes and other flying curiosities I came across a glass case with some early ultra-light model gliders with micro thick film wings. These small planes could fly on a breath. Looking closer at one, it had been fitted with four small flies glued to the wings for propulsion.

In art school I remember a graphic design class project of designing a postage stamp. The image had to be strong and bold to show well. Later, when I started to make kites I found the same graphic rule with kite design. When the kite soared to a couple hundred feet it became postage stamp size. The trick was to make it still show up well. Some miniature kites are the size of stamps or smaller. I've seen some that are hardly show up with a magnifying glass framed with bamboo spars, bridle lines and miniature spools.

Small Sky, the February show in Gallery O now features a collection of miniature kites, collected over the years. Some are from Japan, China, France, England and Germany. Many artist kite makers produce miniature kites to work out ideas for larger creations or just for the challenge of it. Making them is a test of patience and skill.

Go to the slide show for more pictures from the show SMALL SKY
SMALL SKY will continue through February 2009
Nobuhiko Yoshizumi
New York Times article

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

BIG WORLD - small world

Ever since I can remember I have loved all things miniature. Now I see the connections to the deep thinking and patterning of a growing mind. We grow up getting accustomed to the big world by playing with smaller toy versions of things we see around us. Our toys can later become our obsessions in our adult life.

I can remember creating whole worlds around toothpick villages, clothes pin dolls, toy trucks moving dirt along miniature construction site roads, making mud pies and sand castles. Miniature model ships were fitted with broom straw railings and sailed into the dreams at night when the sleep began. It was a world just as real as any, this world created out of nothing but a dash of imagination and a sprinkle of pretend.

Toys are played with by children in every culture fashioned from stick to plastic. Kids mould their worlds of imagination through them. The puppets, the dolls, the trucks and games all contribute to making sense of the world through miniature means. The dreams we have when we are young are like a prayer or a wish for how we would like our lives to be when we “grow up”. This concept of play creating the mind is vitally connected to the way we teach ourselves to think and create patterns of behavior and discovery. The small childhood worlds become our own real lives lived in full scale.

In younger years I visited natural history museums along with my family. I remember the miniature dioramas of native villages, with hogans, cliff dwellings or pueblo villages done to such a degree of detail that tiny pots had been painted with authentic patterns and clay sculpted women grinding miniature ears of corn could be seen under the small glass cases. The dioramas all brought these lives of ancient people to vivid, but miniature life.

The world of the miniature has been around for a very long time. The definition of miniature carries a wide range as well. Early man drew remarkably elegant pictograph drawings of the hunted prey to either bring success in the hunt or to celebrate their kill on the walls of caves. The body adornments that graced the wandering tribes were small out of nomadic necessity, made beautiful for the enhancement of the wearer. There was a time when, during arranged marriages of royal lineage that the image of the betrothed one was made in a
miniature portrait that could safely travel to the chosen neighboring kingdom royal family. These portraits were often the only image that the future young husband or wife would see until their wedding day. The portraits were painted with great care and often creative liberties were taken to make the prospective future family member appear worthy and attractive.

Architects create miniature models of buildings to convince clients that their grand designs are worth the investment. Shipbuilders would model out their plans in pine, string and miniature plank. Ship voyage maps and the cartographic miniaturization of the sea routes have served for the opening up of the world’s trade market and colonization from the European expansionist empires. The Polynesian navigators mapped islands using their knowledge of wind patterns and ocean swells and used
maps of woven sticks and cowry shells to plot island positions and conveyance. Mapping is the miniaturization of the land and sea to set voyages of discovery and plan family vacations.

Dolls can be trainer babies for the real thing later in life with the practice of care and dress and groom. In Japan, when a woman looses a child its considered socially acceptable for the grieving mother to carry a doll around as a symbol of her loss. She cares for it like a real child to ease the pain. Dolls are used for shamanic focus in rituals and voodoo spell binding. There is an ivory doll, well known in the orient that is used in countries that maintain sanctity in the privacy of a woman’s body. This doll is used by doctor and patient to point to “where it hurts”.

The play of shadows on a screen or wall have entertained for centuries and is directly related to our present day shadow and light show…the television and cinema screens. Photography itself is a magnifying lens focusing our world onto a miniature light sensitized plate or film or digital sensor. What remains is a flattened miniature print of the effects light and shadow on a form or a landscape.

Plato’s allegory of the cave of shadows tells volumes about how we are entranced by the dance of images pretending to be the light of reality. In several cultures the shadow show performances have used puppetry to teach anything from French and English humor to the tales of the monkey king and the Ramayana in the all night Javanese shadow puppet performances.

We now study small specks of light on photographic plates and ultraviolet red shifts to determine orbits of the largest stars in the universe so that we can discover the invisible planets that may orbit those suns. We have sent exquisite radio controlled vehicles (controlled, more than likely, by scientists who played with radio controlled toy cars as children) to roam the surfaces of nearby planetary neighbors looking for microscopic evidence of bacterial life or fossils. We map the shape of the known visible universe to look for the smallest evidence of life. Big and small, macro and micro. It is the way we make sense of our place here in our tiny little home on our little blue planet in the sea of unknowns.

Friday, January 23, 2009

OBAMA - The Inaugural O Show

The first opening exhibition is a collection of over a hundred news service photos from Barack Obama’s early life, marriage and family, his career as a law professor, community activist, through his rise as a senator in Illinois and his campaign for president, and the Washington DC Mall inauguration. The captured moments are sometimes poignant, humorous, grand and small. The exhibit gives a real look into the life behind the platform and what led up to this man's rise to the highest office in the world stage.

The opening brought many friends and neighbors for the inaugural exhibit featuring our new president. A large screen live telecast of the evening's inaugural parade and ball festivities was shown in the next door studio theater. In mid January one would think the outdoor gallery opening would scare our "Colderado" people away but it was a balmy 65 degree night with lots of warmth being thrown toward our new president.
Opening January 20th, 2008 - Continuing through January 30th

See a slide show of more photos from the Gallery O exhibit, "Obama - A Life In Pictures"
UPCOMING SHOW - SMALL SKY - Opening February 3rd (George's Birthday!) to February 24