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Antique photograph Love Immortal

“Lyza,” in Romania, 1907, one of hundreds of antique photographs that tell a timeless tall.

I discovered my first nineteenth century photographs in 1963 when I was around six or seven years old in the most unlikely place – a duck farm. If Dickens’ Miss Havisham had an outbuilding, it would have been the vast, antique-filled, dark barn in which I discovered these antique images.

I wandered through that massive barn along pathways seemingly laid out with the use of a blindfold and an Etch A Sketch; it was literally a maze from the past. Victorian balloon-back sofas, pier mirrors, highboys, chests of drawers, spinning wheels, trunks, tables, oil lamps, and glassware of every description lined the aisle which led to the treasure that would spark a lifetime of collecting. Baskets and chairs hung suspended from crossbeams like an antique lover’s heaven.

Love Immortal

Love Immortal: Antique Photographs and Stories of Dogs and Their People

At the end of one aisle, beneath a table, was a wooden crate with stenciled block letters, “G. Cramer Dry Plate Company, St. Louis, MO.” The crate was filled with nineteenth-century photographs – it turned out to be the end of the rainbow for me.

Examining the images amid dust motes that twirled in the dim glow of the few lightbulbs that hung from rafters strung with undulating cobwebs was challenging. I moved the box to a table beneath the opaque light of a window covered in years of grime. There, surrounded by antiques of every type, I saw, for the first time, a face from one-hundred years before. With one look, I was a photoholic – I had to have them. I had to have them all.

Love Immortal

A young girl and her dog in Philadelphia, circa 1915.

The money I had earned at flea markets from the sale of antiques carefully culled from the curbs of Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, wasn’t enough to buy the entire box. Deciding on which photographs to buy was torture. I made my selection and walked away with only a few photographs, an aching heart and a brain trying to figure out how to ransom the rest of the photographs. I say “ransom” because in my heart those photos were already mine. They wanted me, they needed me, and I had to raise the money to purchase their freedom and rescue them from the duck-breeder’s dungeon.

An Interview with Author Anthony Cavo

I proposed several money-making ideas to my parents that evening. They in turn surprised me with the “Cramer Dry Plate” crate and the rest or the photographs. This simple gift, at that impressionable age, sparked a lifetime’s collection consisting of thousands of photographs and glass plate negatives. After fifty-nine years, I still have that crate, the photographs and those treasured memories.

Love Immortal

Charles, a sharp fellow, posed with his even sharper mixed breed terrier in Boulder,
Colorado, 1881. Charle’s felt hat with ribbon band, three-piece suit, watch chain, clean-shaven face and handlebar mustache tell us he was quite fashionable.

It wasn’t until after fifty-years of collecting that I decided to catalogue my collection, which was when I realized I had hundreds of images of dogs and their people. I was fascinated by the fact that so many Victorians loved their dogs enough to take them to photography studios and pose with them for a costly photograph. I couldn’t wait to share these images with people who also had a love for dogs. The result is Love Immortal: Antique Photographs and Stories of Dogs and Their People.

Love Immortal: Antique Photographs and Stories of Dogs and Their People, consists of 240 photographs from 21 different countries of dogs and their people from the 1840s to the 1940s, including: Daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, ferrotypes, Cartes-de-Visite, cabinet cards, stereo views and snap shots. In addition to photographs, Love Immortal shares interesting facts and uplifting stories about dogs.

Love Immortal

Mary hugging Peter, her spaniel, circa 1900, Pennsylvania.

Love Immortal introduces you to hundreds of lovable canines like Psyche, Sancho, Tauser and Toby, who managed to find his way home after being dognapped from his small Irish village. The apparent bond between dogs and people conveyed in these images is, however, the true charm of Love Immortal.

Photographers began photographing dogs and other animals almost as soon as commercial photography became available in 1840. Initially, the exposure time for these early photographs could be up to five minutes. By the mid-1840s the exposure time was reduced to less than a minute. This meant that anyone posing for a photograph had to remain absolutely still during the exposure time or risk a blurred image. This was difficult enough for adults, a mighty effort for children and almost impossible for dogs. It is fairly common to find a photograph featuring a blurry dog.

Love Immortal

This young California man who wore his hat nonchalantly on the crown of his head in 1910 posed proudly with his mixed breed terrier and boxer, seemingly unaware that the moment was fleeting. Thankfully, the occasion was captured by an amateur photographer.

Even with improved exposure time, it was still difficult to keep a dog motionless long enough to obtain a crisp image. This is why sharp photographs of dogs taken during the mid-19th century are highly prized by photograph collectors. It is also why many images of dogs taken during that time depict dogs lying down; waiting until they lie down was a sure way of obtaining a clear image. Some very talented and enterprising photographers were able to capture the dog’s attention, which resulted in inquisitive canines freezing and staring directly at the camera, often with that charming tilt of the head they have perfected.

The history of dog photography is as old as photography itself. Heidi Hudson, my cyberfriend, a journalist and the photo archivist for the British Kennel Club, is encyclopedic in her knowledge of the history of photography and dogs. Heidi has been generous with her knowledge and an invaluable resource in identifying the earliest known photographic images of dogs.

Love Immortal

Young girl in winter clothing with her dog, circa 1900, Washington State.

One of the earliest dog-related images and considered the oldest photographic image of a dog is not so much of a dog as an effigy of a dog. The image, taken by William Henry Fox Talbot and in the Getty Museum Collection, is a photograph of the statue of Sir Walter Scott’s favorite dog, Maida, taken on October 24, 1844.

Arguably, the earliest photograph of a living dog, might be Daguerre’s own dog, Mdor. Daguerre, who invented one of the earliest forms of commercial photography, was known to take photographs of his family and friends, so it only makes sense that he would have photographed his beloved dog during the 1840s.

Although the first photograph taken of a dog may never be identified, it gave rise to more than 180 years of dog photography that serves as a testament to the unbreakable bond between dogs and their people. This rich history is celebrated in HarperCollins’ Love Immortal: Antique Photographs and Stories of Dogs and Their People.

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