They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

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The Library Of Congress

A Study Of Contrasts

Via jaylake.

Shorpy posted two high res photos of the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress -- one from 1905 and one from 2007.

There are a number of interesting comparisons to make between these two photos. Obviously one is black & white and the other is color. And also the more recent photograph can show off the splendor of recent renovation efforts. There is also no missing the semicircular altar of modern technology at the bottom center of the 2007 photo: computers, security monitors, printers, etc. If there is even a telephone in the main reading room of 1905, it isn't visible in my quick view. Interestingly, because of the better light and color, books are actually better highlighted in the 2007 photo.

But as a photographer, I see other differences. In 1905 the photo required a long time exposure, presumably in daylight. This results in the main reading room being inhabited by ghosts. Some are sitting, some are at that central semicircular counter. None are sitting or standing so still for long enough that they are clearly visible. This is a library which is being used. These people are turning in their chairs to get up. They are poring over multiple books and writing on their papers. They are not stationary statues.

In 2007, the Phase One P45+ digital back is able to take a picture with available illumination which is sharp and shows but a moment. Pristine and crystal clear sharp. But it is devoid of people. Today they can take this picture with the place all lit up, but either not during business hours or when no one is visible. It is a pristine main reading room -- and also stark and unused. I'm not sure that was ever the intent of the photograph, but it was only through the comparison with the 1905 photo that I noticed this.

Another area where technology has clearly improved in 102 years -- the lens. Scroll up both photos to the glorious arch of the dome and over to the far left upper corner. That blurring you see in 1905 is from the lens. Lenses in general and wide-angles in particular are much more advanced. I've been looking over some of the camera and lenses developed since I bought my last major 35mm Nikon SLR equipment some twenty-five or so years ago, especially in the last decade, and some of the specs of the lenses read like science fiction to the photographer of the 1970s and 1980s.

What will the photo from 2109 look like?

Dr. Phil
Tags: libraries, library of congress, photos, technology

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