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The A59 photographer

Techniques

We have assumed, perhaps unfairly, that our photographer is male. But in the first decade of the 20th century he took two different cameras to northern French cathedrals, not only the quarter plate size (the A size), that he used consistently, but also a half plate size (B negative size). A half plate camera is a bulky, weighty and cumbersome object, requiring a substantial tripod: even a half plate camera is heavy and difficult to move around. Moreover, almost all the negatives are glass plates, much heavier than modern film negatives. He lugged both cameras up into the upper reaches of Amiens Cathedral. Our photographer could have been a woman photographer with an extremely cooperative family or travelling companions, but most women photographers concentrated on studio work, or work where it was not so necessary to move the camera once it had been set up, until the introduction of lighter roll-film cameras. To those who might feel that these are sexist assumptions, I can only say that I have reached them as a woman who has used a modern quarter plate camera, with modern film negatives, to photograph gothic churches.

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