« Bury Fire Brigade »

This may be one of the earliest images I have collected. The gentleman stands solemnly with a proprietary hand on an exquisite model of a fire fighting wagon with Bury (England) Corporation Fire Brigade lettered on the side. The uniform, plainer than what typically came later in the 19th century, has a single sleeve insignia and a single piece of braid on the left shoulder. Protecting the community from fire had a similar status as that of police and other safety officers.

Was a model of this large scale commonly made as a matter of pride, or for demonstration/training, or could it be a loaner manufacturer’s model of what the city was proposing to purchase?

The original is an early albumen carte de visite print much the worse for age and wear (see the original below). The restoration was done to a very high resolution scan which allows repairs to be made at the emulsion level; this revealed a global pattern of what may be the flaws in the early silver-sensitized film and/or paper, or perhaps dirt that accumulated in the micro cracks of the deteriorating paper emulsion (I tend to favor the former since there was a greater concentration of patterning in the shadow areas). As is my philosophy in digitally restoring antique prints, my intention is to display how the print may have looked when first made while archivally storing the unrestored original. The print may never have had much brilliance or contrast, but certainly the yellowing of the surface and accumulated dirt has made it look tonally flatter than it was when new 150 years ago, thus the attempt to “clean it up” without giving it the fine texture and snappy contrast we expect in images today.

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