It started with the above photo – some musings and questions in my head. Well, actually, some of the musings began after I did a bit of research, being unable to read the date on the back of the photograph. Was it 1903? 1953? The hand printing of the description was easy enough to read but the year was not.
But as I did more research, I wondered if it would be conceivable for “woke” progressives to demand the “cancellation” of photography if they only knew…
The print of the photograph measures only 3 1/2″ X 2 3/8″ – including the 1/8″ white border around the actual photo. The front of the photo has a gloss to it – but being so small (and probably old), it’s difficult to make out any details other than there are likely some buildings across what could be sand or sea. We know more by the description and after scanning at a higher resolution.
When you turn the photo over, written on the back is “Aug 19 illegible” but possibly could be 1903 or 1953. And that is all my eyes can see with my glasses on. Under a bright light, I can faintly make out an oval in three places, but I would never have even noticed or looked for them at first.
Scanning the back of the photo made things more interesting though. While I was more concerned about whether I could make out the date when scanned at a higher resolution, I noticed something really interesting on the screen as the scanner did its job. I could see something else printed on the back of the photograph. Turns out it was the word “Velox” with an oval around the word, in several places.
With a bit of editing in Gimp including some contrast and brightness adjustments, I was able to make it clearer:
Seeing these kinds of things can often provide more clues into dating a photograph. In my case, it did not really – by I am suspecting it was 1953 but am open to other interpretations. But digging deeper I discovered some interesting things.
Velox Photographic Paper
While I’m fairly sure this photograph is not an example of the most earliest of Velox photography papers, it turns out that Velox paper was the first commercially viable photographic paper. It was “invented” in the late 19th century by Leo Baekeland, who went on to sell his business that made Velox photographic paper to George Eastman in 1899. Eastman founded the Eastman Kodak Company, and for many years, continued to produce Velox photographic paper.
From my research, it would seem that in those early days, the paper had a mark on the back that simply had the word “Velox” on it, but later the addition of “Kodak” would also appear above that. However, in the UK, the paper was identified differently, and I’ve thus far been unable to pin down the period of time when it was produced with the word Velox and an oval around it.
Now that we have that covered, let’s briefly mention today’s Woke “Cancel Culture” of all things “bad.” Often, they make no sense to me but they seem to have their own logic – anyone who might have invented, philosophized, or used words they don’t like, ought to be “cancelled” apparently, along with any good things they might have been known for. Nothing can be good, as they are tainted by this evil that the Church Of Woke proclaim.
Today, I often hear people curse plastic. They want plastic eliminated. They see no good use for plastic or the petrochemical industry (despite the fact we could not have a modern efficient health care system without boatloads of plastic that saves lives and has properties that help keep things disposable instead of risks of reusing). The great uses of plastic in our health care is beyond the scope of this article, but many will agree that there are some who seem to think plastic is utterly evil in our world.
What has this to do with photographic paper? Ah – I mentioned above a man named Leo Baekeland – who invented the photographic paper that made printing to a paper in artificial light a commercially viable process.
Leo Baekeland – The “Father Of Plastic”
That’s right. All the photographer fans out there who are also “progressively woke” and who find plastic evil, might be disturbed to learn that their hobby was made more possible by the very man who is today, often known as the “father of plastic.”
Leo was born in Belgium in 1863 and immigrated to the USA where he continued to work on his photographic paper ideas. But after selling that business, that would end up being a tremendous product for the Kodak Company, Leo continued to work as a chemist and eventually would go on to develop “Bakelite” – the first plastic that could retain it’s shape even after being heated.
From there, in the early 20th century, many products were made from Bakelite – they could be made more efficiently, allowing more and more people to own things like radios, telephones, advances in electrical transmission due to Bakelite electrical insulators, and so many more things that helped to provide more conveniences to people they otherwise would not have.
But of course, if you hate plastic, none of this matters to you, I’m sure 🙂 . Personally, I’m not a huge fan of a lot of plastic stuff that is junk – but I do recognize that the invention and development of plastics has had enormous benefits for mankind.
And we can thank the person who also gave us commercially viable photographic paper for this. But if you’re a plastic hater, and have religious ideas about what should be cancelled, perhaps you’ll now be rethinking photography, realizing now the evil plastic inventor also did so much for the development of photography along the way.
If you are a hater of all things plastic, and rue the day it was invented, demanding it be eliminated from our lives, and anyone involved in its creation and development in the past is some sort of evil character, then you’ll have to give some long hard thought (if you are capable) to your premises and logic if you enjoy photography and the benefits photography has given us (also major medical benefits for the human race).
For me, I’ll get back to scanning on my scanner made with more modern plastics along with my laptop, that’s now almost as durable as the old metal cased and brutally heavy IBM laptops of the 1990’s.
Do you think the father of plastic and all his works should be “cancelled?” Other ideas? Leave a comment below 🙂