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W. Knowlton
LOT ID: 76925
42nd Street - above the tracks, looking west from 3rd Avenue, 1887

Albumen Print
7.25 х 9.63 in. (18.42 x 24.46 cm.)
Inscribed, titled, dated, numbered 1104, with "W. Knowlton Photo., N. Y." in the negative.
Lot description
W. Knowlton, 42nd Street - above the tracks, looking west from 3rd Avenue, 1887. Vintage albumen print, 7.25 x 9.63 inches (18.4 x 24.5 cm), on original mount measuring 13 x 17.38 inches (33 x 44.1 cm). Titled, dated, numbered 1104, with "W. Knowlton Photo., N. Y." in the negative.

Willis Knowlton (1837-1901) was an early photographer and challenger of the daguerreotype standard. The daguerreotype, the first photographic method that was both technically and commercially successful, began its decline in popularity in the 1850s due to an onslaught of emerging technical developments and processes. These developments eventually ousted the practice into obscurity.

In 1864, Knowlton enticed customers with what he called the “big camera.” With this device he was able to produce photographs that were four times larger than the standard glass plate negative. The big camera created plates measuring 16 x 20 inches, as opposed to typical 8 x 10 inch plates. While portraits of this size would have been outrageously expensive for the average consumer, this camera was ideal for capturing landscapes and other scenic or grand views. Though Knowlton may have used the camera to some extent as a gimmick to lure in customers, the device, along with the other technical developments of the time, helped open the door for the many major developments to follow.
42nd Street - above the tracks, looking west from 3rd Avenue by W. Knowlton
  • 42nd Street - above the tracks, looking west from 3rd Avenue by W. Knowlton
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