I think that John Capewell had aspirations toward art, and this is one of his oddball/arty shots that he took, but when I think of it, this glass negative probably predates some of the eccentric art movements like Dada by a number of years. What was Capewell thinking as he arranged his subjects? Was there something in the aesthetic air that reached as far as Westville, New Jersey?
I had converted the digital image of this glass negative into black and white, but before I started to fiddle with it, the image was a very interesting blue.
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. They came out better than I thought they would so I thought I would show them off to the world on this site. 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!
Last Week: Gentleman in the Lodgepole Chair