New Book "Age of Silver: Encounters With Great Photographers"


John Loengard’s new book, Age of Silver: Encounters With Great Photographers, which celebrates, through Loengard’s portraits, some of the most notable photographers in the history of the medium.

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An entire generation of photographers has come of age since digital technology supplanted film technology in photography. For those who have never wound a roll of film through a camera or dipped their fingers in darkroom chemicals, but have nonetheless wondered about that archaic process, let me recommend the following description from photographer and former Life magazine director of photography John Loengard. It is as succinct and eloquent an account of photography’s origins and chemical past as you will ever find:

An Englishman named Henry Fox Talbot invented the negative in 1833. In the dark, he coated a sheet of paper with silver chloride. Putting a leaf on top, he left the paper in the sun. (Silver and chlorine combine in the dark to form silver chloride and separate when struck by light.) In the sunlight, chlorine gas floated off, as a gas would. Dark particles of silver embedded in the paper’s fiber appeared everywhere except in the leaf’s shape. The paper under the leaf stayed white. A wash in salt water took away the silver chloride that was not touched by light. The negative was born, and for more than 150 years, every black-and-white print was made from one.

Loengard’s description of analog photography’s essential formula appears in the introduction of his new book Age of Silver: Encounters with Great Photographers. Loengard calls it “a personal tribute to silver and a few of those who made fabulous use of it,” which is an accurate representation, as far as it goes. The book brings together Loengard’s portraits of a number of photographers who made iconic images through the mid-to-late 20th century—a photographic Greatest Generation that he documented during the 1980s and early 1990s—along with his photos of some younger photographers just beginning to make their mark in the years before silver-based photography gave way to digital. Side by side with the portraits are Loengard’s pictures of the photographers’ famous images—not prints of the images, but the original negatives from which all prints are produced. Loengard presents them as objects of great beauty, illuminated by the glow of another photographic artifact, the light table.


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