Welcome to The Photo Playground

If you are one of our authors please log in.

If you are not one of our authors, but would like to be please contact us.

Member Login

Lost your password?

George Shiras III

26 September 2010
By Sean

As you may have noticed The Photo Playground went on six month hiatus. Life happened and new responsibilities were incurred both academically and personally. This next article will focus on an academic responsibility that I took on during the Winter 2010 semester. It is a project that I had wanted to work on for at least a year before I was given the green light from The Devos Art Museum, Beaumier Heritage Center, and Northern Michigan University.

As some of you may know I recieved a BFA in Art and Design from Northern Michigan University in May of 2009 and returned as a post baccalaureate Art History student in January of 2010.  While an undergrad at NMU the Melissa Matuscak, the director of the Devos Art Museum, let me browse through the museum’s George Shiras III photography collection.  I was told that the previous exhibition of his work had been in 1990 – 20 years ago – and that she was wanting to have another exhibition of his work.  My interest was piqued within seconds.  What could be better than a project that merges so many of interests?  Art History, photography, and restoration all in one project.

It took quite a bit of time to get all the details worked out, but in November of 2009 I told Melissa that I would be returning for three semesters and she offered me the project through the Beaumier Heritage Center.  I got to work on it in February of 2010 and worked right up until the day the exhibition opened last May.

So what did we have to work with?  Just under 40 silver gelatin prints made from reproduced 5×7 negatives provided by the National Geographic Scoiety.  Many of them had curled and were in rough shape.  The frames they were housed in, as you can imagine, were old and just a little tacky and really did not carry any air of sophistication that you would expect to see at a professional exhibition.

The negatives, like the prints, were also in a sorry state – more than likely from improper handling 2o years when being used for the initial exhibition.  After talking with Dan Truckey, the director of the Beaumier Heritage Center, and Melissa we decided that what was really in order was a high resolution digital archive of these photographs as well as an exhibition of freshly printed, mounted and framed photos.  I lucked out, I got to do all of the photography and almost none of the historical research, that was conducted by an intern at the Beaumier, Lindsey Strzyzykoski.

Over the course of the semester I used a large format Epson scanner to scan all of the negatives at 4800 dpi.  As I said in the previous paragraph the negatives were largely in very poor condition and required extensive digital restoration.  A good majority of the images took just less than an hour before they were printable, but there were many that took as much as four hours for each one.  I have been working with Photoshop for eleven years – I am very comfortable with the software and create a very efficient workflow.

The restoration, although well within my realm of capability, created the most trying time for me during this project.  Aside from purely visual issues I had to consider philosophical issues of the restoration of historical photographs.  Shiras was by no means a wonderful printer and often relied on the National Geographic Society to do his printing for him.  He was more documentary in his approach, as he and his assistant John Hammer are the folks who literally invented nighttime flash photography in the 19th century.  He photographed wild lands and wild life at night.

So what was I to do?  Should I enhance the images to create a more contemporary aesthetic or do I leave some blemishes and marks that imply age and historicity?  What I did know is that I had to maintain some sort of visual consistency.  I ended up employing a combination of the two.  I removed most of the blemishes from most of the images leaving the ones that I felt carried the strongest implications of historicity.  Meaning I set out to remove the dust and emulsion problems that were distracting, but left the ones that seemed to me to be more “natural” in their occurrance, that includes scratches on the negatives caused by mishandling 20 years ago.

I also had to consider the larger print as a whole.  Shiras’ original images were very contrasty, often with predominantly black grounds with little to no detail or the exact opposite predominantly white with very little detail.  I had to consider this when printing his work.  I chose to continue in this vein and produce contrasty images, although I did have to tame it down in several photographs to make them visually pleasing.  I ended up printing all but five of the images at 13″ x 19″.  Not huge, but not small either – It’s what the budget allowed for and I think that it was perfect.

The five images that I did not print were printed by The Lab in Minneapolis.  Their work is absolutely stunning, they conduct themselves very professionally, and they are very affordable.  They printed for us three 2′ x 3′ prints and two 3′ x 4′ prints and I could not be happier with the results, as I said the images are stunning and are very powerful when viewing them in person.

Once everything had been printed, information panels made, etc. Lindsey and I designed the show in two days.  The two of us and her fiancé created the historical displays, hung the work, ate some food, and had a lot of fun.  The images below are a few of the 37 prints that were on display up until last week.

*Notes on the pictures.  These images are from a PowerPoint that made before all of the images had been restored, as such several do not appear to be finished.  Although these images are now in the public domain, please be courteous and contact me before using them.

Share this Article
[del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Furl] [Google] [LinkedIn] [Reddit] [StumbleUpon] [Technorati] [Twitter] [Email]

Tags: , , ,

15 Responses to George Shiras III

  1. Steven Bennett on 30 August 2016 at 3:32 pm

    Perhaps I’m overlooking it, but nowhere is a date included for these photographs. On National Geographic’s website one of these pictures is shown with a 1906 date….is that the case for all of these?

  2. linkbucks on 25 September 2014 at 6:58 am

    Attractive portion of content. I just stumbled upon your blog
    and in accession capital to claim that I get actually
    enjoyed account your weblog posts. Anyway I’ll be subscribing
    for your feeds or even I achievement you get admission to persistently quickly.

  3. domain on 14 September 2014 at 8:53 pm

    Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a very well written article.
    I’ll make sure to bookmark it and come back
    to read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely comeback.

  4. meditation techniques on 21 July 2014 at 9:38 pm

    My relatives always say that I am killing my timke here at net, eccept I
    know I am getting experience everyday by reading thes fastidious articles oor reviews.

  5. cash advancement on 22 November 2013 at 8:30 am

    Hey there! I simply wish to offer you a huge thumbs up for youur great information you have
    got here on this post. I am returning to your web site for more soon.

  6. melatoninforsleepeffects.skyrock.com on 16 August 2013 at 10:49 pm

    You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be actually something that I think I
    would never understand. It seems too complex and extremely broad
    for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get
    the hang of it!

  7. side effects garcinia cambogia on 31 July 2013 at 7:57 pm

    I have been exploring for a little for any high quality articles or weblog posts in this kind of area .

    Exploring in Yahoo I ultimately stumbled upon this site.
    Reading this information So i am satisfied to convey that I’ve an incredibly excellent uncanny feeling I discovered just what I needed. I most indubitably will make certain to do not disregard this website and provides it a glance on a continuing basis.

  8. birmingham auto locksmiths on 26 July 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Wonderful post but I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this subject?
    I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Bless you!

  9. frontier cable on 13 July 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Hello there! This is my first visit to your blog!
    We are a team of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche.
    Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on.

    You have done a extraordinary job!

  10. build your own website on 19 June 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Definitely believe that which you said. Your favorite justification seemed to be on
    the internet the easiest thing to be aware of.
    I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people
    think about worries that they plainly do not know about. You managed
    to hit the nail upon the top and also defined
    out the whole thing without having side-effects , people can take
    a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

  11. Johnny on 17 June 2013 at 12:51 am

    Hmm it appears like your site ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I too am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do you have any points for inexperienced blog writers? I’d definitely appreciate it.

  12. pure raspberry ketones reviews on 16 June 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Wow that was odd. I just wrote an really long comment
    but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m
    not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say great
    blog!

  13. pure raspberry ketone walmart on 16 June 2013 at 3:12 am

    It is really a nice and useful piece of information.
    I’m satisfied that you shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  14. pure raspberry ketones 1000mg on 15 June 2013 at 11:41 pm

    Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I seriously enjoyed reading it, you
    are a great author. I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will eventually come back very soon.
    I want to encourage that you continue your great job,
    have a nice evening!

  15. Kris Lemmon on 3 December 2011 at 10:45 am

    Love the George Shiras photos. Can these be purchased?

    Thanks, Kris Lemmon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*