Cosm: homage to the dark contrasts

Rail traffic between Detroit and points east travels through a tunnel under the Detroit River between Detroit, Michigan, USA, and Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Before that was built, however, transport occurred on the water’s surface in water-strider mode, this way.

https://jonathanmorse.blog/2014/11/16/commute/

What you see there, a boat named Detroit, is long gone, but its history continues from moment to moment of what looks confusingly like a life. Your demo: six years afterward,  I rephotoshop with Nik’s Dark Contrasts filter, and

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“Transfer steamer Detroit,” between 1900 and 1905. Detroit Publishing Company Collection Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2016813546/

To enlarge, right-click and follow the View image popup.

Record, encarmined

You may be able to see that the state of this image in the Library of Congress is a photographic print mounted on a paper backing, with the library’s acquisition stamp overlapping both sheets.

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Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/99401043/

But you also do see that the composite photograph has lost definition and contrast. On the record, it has been going lost. With the aid of a computer, sight can begin bringing it home again to history and making the record’s words as readable again as they were when they flowed from the pen of A. P. Yates in 1893. Over the image, however, a gray new computerized disfigurement has settled in and begun blemishing what you see of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad’s engine no. 999, claimed to be the first vehicle in history to have reached a speed of 100 miles an hour.

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In the library, a history of photography can help you understand what happened. In the 1890s, when negatives were large, photographers often retouched them with carmine paste. Painted over dark areas of the negative, this lightened the corresponding area of the print. Perhaps because May 10, 1893 was a cloudy day in Syracuse, or perhaps because the smoke from no. 999 was billowing too abundantly into the air, A. P. Yates encarmined a zone in front of and above no. 999’s boiler. On the print, that would have whitened the sky. But Mr. Yates didn’t want to risk whiting out any of no. 999’s beautiful metal, and so some of the original crud of 1893 remains in his artwork as a dark, angular halo.

With a computer under my hands, however, I can become Mr. Yates’s 21st-century continuator. Using a process that Photoshop calls cloning, I paint more carmine over the dark original of May 10, 1893.

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And see: I have replaced the last trace of history in the image with the truth of art.

Think of me as a Venetian barber in a time of cholera, doing a little cosmetic work on Gustav von Aschenbach to make him attractive to the teenage punk who happens to be the god of history.

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Dirk Bogarde in Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice (1971)

Where time sleeps with shadow

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Lester Jones, August 24, 1940, “FIRST FLOOR, STAIRHALL – Shaker Centre Family Dwelling House (Third), North side of Village Road, North of Route 68 & State Route 33, Shakertown, Mercer County, KY.” Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ky0033.color.572148c/. Post-processed for color and detail. Additional data about this series of photographs are at https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ky0033.photos.071803p/.