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Camera Clues

Camera Clues: A Handbook for Photographic Investigation

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Camera Clues
    Book Description:

    In Camera Clues, Joe Nickell shares his methods of identifying and dating old photos and demonstrates how to distinguish originals from copies and fakes. Particularly intriguing are his discussions of camera tricks, darkroom manipulations, retouching techniques, and uses of computer technology to deceive the eye. Camera Clues concludes with a look at allegedly "paranormal" photography, from nineteenth-century "spirit photographs" to UFO snapshots.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-2691-3
    Subjects: Law, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. ii-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-3)

    Photography, evolving from tentative experiments beginning about the turn of the nineteenth century, became commonplace by mid-century, and—with the introduction of the Brownie camera in 1900—it became widely popular: Practically anyone could "capture" anything at any time on film. Now, with millions of photographic images being made annually, photography has invaded virtually every area of human activity.¹

    With this proliferation of photos have come attendant mysteries—questions raised about the date when or conditions under which a given photo was made, about its subject matter or other concerns. Many are historical questions: Could this be a rare portrait...

  5. 2 The History of Photography
    (pp. 4-29)

    Ever since prehistoric times—when cave dwellers painted likenesses of animals they hunted on the walls of caves such as the Altamira caverns in Spain¹—people have sought to make images of the world around them. Later developments such as the landscape paintings beautifully rendered on silk by ancient Chinese artists² or portrait art (developed by the Egyptians and Romans and introduced, in the West, at the beginning of the Renaissance³) continued the tradition.

    The growth of the middle class in the eighteenth century created a demand for artistic likenesses of people that were less expensive than the oil portraits...

  6. 3 Historical Photo Mysteries
    (pp. 30-68)

    Historical mysteries abound—many of themconcerningphotographs, othersinvolvingphotographs as a source of evidence. In this chapter we will look at the former with a view toward dating old photos and distinguishing original prints from later copies and outright fakes. (Questions of identity in old portrait photos will be discussed in the following chapter.) Also we will look at photos treated as evidence in a series of case studies that illustrate how clues may remain latent in an old photograph—rather like an undeveloped image—until subjected to scrutiny many decades later.

    The first step in dating an...

  7. 4 Photography and Identification
    (pp. 69-97)

    Since their invention, photographs have naturally been associated with identification. In this chapter we will look first at the use of photographs as an aid to identification, primarily by law enforcement personnel, and then at the need to identify the subjects of old photographs, a frequent challenge to the photo detective.

    History of identification. Descriptions of wanted criminals were employed during the reign of the pharaohs in Egypt, as elsewhere throughout antiquity. In fact, before the advent of photographs and fingerprints, detectives usually had to rely on memory—theirs or that of someone else. According to a history of the...

  8. 5 Investigative Photography
    (pp. 98-119)

    Of the various sciences and skills applied in modern investigative work, that of photography is one of the most important, not only in forensic cases but also in historical, archaeological, art, and other investigations. For example, just as photography is used in police work to record evidence at a crime scene or help detect erasures on an altered check, the historian may use it to document and illustrate historical personages and places or to study the writing on an old manuscript. Similarly, the archaeologist might employ photography at a "dig" to record an artifact in its exact position before removing...

  9. 6 Trick Photography
    (pp. 120-145)

    Whoever said “Pictures don’t lie” was obviously not a photographer. All shutterbugs know that a photo may easily be faked: Just let them count the ways. One means—actually a group of varied techniques involving the camera, the darkroom, or other means—is by combining images. After examining these methods, we will look at other camera tricks, additional darkroom deceptions, retouching, and the use of computer technology, and then consider some ways of detecting trickery in photographs.

    Among the oldest photographic tricks is combining two or more images to make a deceptive composite—a trick that can be accomplished in...

  10. 7 Photographing the Paranormal
    (pp. 146-182)

    It may be only natural that, given its popularity and special capabilities, photography in the mid-nineteenth century was applied to certain pseudoscientific purposes. For example, in 1863 it was widely believed that—similar to the camera—the retina of the human eye at the moment of death retained whatever image was last registered on it. Therefore, as Aaron Scharf relates in hisCreative Photography:

    In the case of murder by assault its promise for crime detection was obvious if only the tiny picture on the iris could be extracted and enlarged. Thus, within thirty hours after the violent demise of...

  11. 8 Paranormal Photographs
    (pp. 183-201)

    In contrast to those pictures that are said to have involved ordinary photographic processes in recording paranormal subjects—ghosts, UFOs, and monsters—some pictures are alleged to have actually beenproducedin a paranormal manner. As we shall see in the following discussion—concerning miracle pictures, photos by spirits, and psychokinetic photographs—some of these images are produced on film while others appear on ordinary cloth or other materials.

    Some interesting images that have been widely publicized by the popular press are said to have been produced in a miraculous way. These include an alleged “photograph” of Christ and certain...

  12. Appendix: Landmarks in Photography
    (pp. 202-205)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 206-226)
  14. Index
    (pp. 227-235)