When I decided to re-photograph these glass negatives shot early in the twentieth century by John B. Capewell of Westville, New Jersey, I did so in an assembly line fashion. There were negatives that were in pretty good condition, but there are many that are fairly bad shape, and I wondered if it was worth bothering. I decided to forge ahead. I was set up so I shot everything. It wasn’t like I was wasting film with a digital camera.
This one was in pretty bad shape. The emulsion had turned an awful amber brown, and it looked like there was hardly any image worth grabbing. When I brought the file into Photoshop and inverted it, the image turned into this beautiful indigo color.
The Capewell Glass Negative Collection is a series of about 200 5-inch by 7-inch glass negatives shot early in the 20th Century by John Batt Capewell (1878-1951) of Westville, New Jersey. John passed the negatives down to his son Henry who left them in his wife’s possession upon his passing. Henry’s widow didn’t know what to do with them and didn’t particularly want them so she offered them to my Dad who couldn’t turn down anything. Ultimately I wound up with them and thought I would one day have photographic prints struck from them. That didn’t happen, but I came up with the digital workaround of placing the negatives on a lightbox and rephotographing them with a digital camera. The “processing” was then done on a computer with image editing software. Many of these pictures have not been seen in a century, and I’m proud to be presenting them today.
At first, I did not know who the people were in the photographs. I have a box of ephemera that accompanied the negatives and snagged a few clues from that as far as the Capewell name. I did some research on the internet and had a few false starts and wrong turns, but the readers of these posts have provided a remarkable amount of research and detail. I’m amazed at what people have turned up sifting through public records and such!
This story continues to evolve. Every Thursday, I will post a Capewell picture or two. If you recognize a person or place in one of the shots or just want to drop a line, feel free to comment!
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