Henry C. Lovejoy

In 1891, a reporter visited the studio of Trenton photographer of Henry C. Lovejoy at 5 S. Warren Street. The following is a quotation from the article in the Trenton Times in which Lovejoy discusses the challenges of portraiture, technological improvements, retouching, post-mortem photographs, and other issues. Lovejoy, born in Maine in about 1838, had a series of studios in Trenton from 1869 to 1900 when he died of complications from several diseases.

“Of course there have been wonderful improvements in the photographic art during recent years and the modern machinery and materials make our work less difficult and more productive of good results. The great art, however, is in placing a person in position. This can only be acquired by long practice and experience. Different people will get better pictures in different positions, and the photographer must also be a physiognomist.

“The first thing to do when a customer comes in is to look at him or her closely and determine from which position the best likeness can be obtained. You must [not] let him see you watching them either or they will think you are looking at their imperfections and be offended. This is a very necessary part of the business, as a person can often get a very good picture from one position where another would give a very poor one. We can often flatter a person considerably by position and also by retouching the negative.

“We could flatter people so much in the retouching of the negative that they would scarcely know their own pictures. This is very popular however, and every lady who comes wants a pretty picture whether she happens to be nice looking or not. There are some ladies who are very particular in this line, and want every wrinkle, spot and blemish removed. The men are not so particular in this respect. They give us an order, sit and go about their business.

“One of the greatest improvements has been in the matter of plates. We now use dry plates where we formerly used wet ones. Wet ones we had to flow with collodion, put in a silver batch and used almost immediately. But the dry ones we can use at any time -- expose them, put them away,etc. without injury. This saves much time and is a great advantage in taking pictures of dead people, where we have to go [to] the house and return to the studio again before we can make the picture.

“Yes, we often take pictures of dead people. The friends often want the picture of one who has died and we are called upon to take it. We get along better than you would think in this line. There is a picture of a dead child which you could not have told from the picture of a loving one had I not told you. The undertaker helps us place a dead person in position, open the eyes, etc., and by skillful work upon the negative a perfectly life-like picture can be produced.

“Some time ago a man came here whose wife died. We had her picture in bridal attire and he wanted his taken and placed beside hers in one picture just as if it had been taken when they were standing together, such as operation makes more work for the photographer but can be accomplished very nicely.

“The day does not make much difference. A cloudy one will answer just as well as a clear one as we regulate the amount of light by shades. Toward evening, however, when it is getting dark we have to stop--say 4 or 5 o’clock.

“Flash light pictures are taken by means of a magnesium light. The picture is taken during the flash. They are not a great success, as there are no half tones, only black and white colors. It takes from one to three seconds to take a picture. It used to take longer, and I have had a person at two minutes. A natural wink makes no difference. It does more harm when a person doesn’t wink at all. This produces a starey expression. One old lady wanted me to wait while she held her breath and got ready, but I took it unexpectedly and got a good picture.

“It is a good plan for people to bring a friend with them as they then feel more at home. We have the most trouble with babies.

Trenton Times, May 7, 1891, page 1.