During the fall 2019 semester, Bard Graduate Center students took part in a special workshop on historical photographic processes at the Penumbra Foundation. This event was organized by Associate Professors Catherine Whalen and Aaron Glass for the seminar Picturing Things: Photography as Material Culture. This course explores the materiality and evidentiary potential of photographic images as objects.

The Penumbra Foundation, located in New York City, is a comprehensive resource for photographers, artists, students, professionals, historians, researchers, conservators, and curators. Along with artist residencies, lectures, and a specialized library, the Foundation offers instruction in historical techniques for making photographic images, ranging from daguerreotypes and tintypes to finely detailed engravings and colorful gum bichromate prints.

For Bard Graduate Center students, Executive Director Geoffrey Berliner gave an in-depth lecture on the history of photography and led a hands-on object study session. A highlight of the visit was a workshop where he demonstrated how to make a portrait tintype, which utilized a wet collodian process on a metal plate. The image’s subject was doctoral student Pierre-Jean Desemerie (pictured above). The result is now part of the Bard Graduate Center Study Collection along with examples from previous class visits. Students were excited to observe the skill and craft required to successfully make a tintype. They reported that this demonstration and the session at Penumbra as a whole greatly increased their understanding of the history of photographic techniques and processes.