The journey to digitising all of the Beattie Collection is a long and expensive one. If you've read any of my blog posts, articles etc you will understand that it isn't just a case of tossing them under the scanner. And the quest for quality, modern digital recreations is not easy. I've admitted before that I'm not (and there is no point) just trying to produce perfect copies of these historic Tasmanian photos exactly the way they've been done for the past 150+ years.
For a start, there’s no certainty that the washed sepia look was what the photographer (Beattie) would have intended. Sepia was developed to make the prints last longer. And the original Beattie prints (and those of that era) that have survived are black and white, not sepia. It is my personal theory that sepia toning was introduced by subsequent curators to present a historic look, rather than an accurate look.
And most importantly is the copyright issue. The copyright on original photos would have expired 25 years after Beattie’s death (i.e. 1955) But in creating new, derivative works, the copyright starts again. And it would be very hard to argue that my new digital recreations with their vastly different toning and Photoshop enhancements are mere copies. They are clearly a new spin on old images, making the grade as derivative not duplicates.
Now we could just donate this collection to The Archives and they would probably be scanned and stuck on a web site. And after a few years, the collection would fade into history, popping up here and there when someone needed an old photo. And if you want the proof of this, there’s plenty of examples. My belief is that this would not be good enough for the Beattie Collection. Read my blog article on the photo my son found at the tip if you doubt my passion.
So that’s NOT what is going to happen to this collection under my watch. It is being digitally preserved and enhanced and it IS available to the world. But that costs money and this collection has always paid its own rent. It’s an open commercial collection. Yes, decades before Creative Commons and Open Source and all that hippy "sharing economy" talk, this little collection found a way to survive. And this brings me to the point of my blog article. Hopefully, you are still with me.
I’ve said before that the web site as it is now is a beta for what I want some time in the future. It’s a hosted web site. It lets everyone browse (and search) for free, fulfilling my promise. And for those that wish, there are items for sale. The web site mirrors perfectly the museum experience offered by Beattie himself. But what you’ve not heard before is that the collection isn’t just photographs. There always was more to it than that. Beattie had artefacts from colonial Tasmania. My father added cameras and photographic equipment, books and other historical items. I want to add lantern slide lectures, because Beattie used to tour Tasmania showing his slides and giving his talks. (You didn’t think PowerPoint was an original idea, did you?)
With bigger ideas come bigger costs. To meet bigger costs, the collection has to work harder. Has to offer more to the public. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. And I’ve tried to figure out where I am going wrong with the products. And then I took a holiday and visited some galleries and museums. It struck me that this web site doesn’t really offer finished products. We offer bare prints you can turn into finished products. But you need to frame a print before it can be hung on a wall. And (up until now) I haven’t offered framing.
Modern galleries sell art in lots of ways that don’t equate to a bare print on paper. In fact, you are hard pressed to buy a “naked” print in most galleries. Everything is framed, ready to hang. And that’s where I am going. I want modern framing to suit modern houses. I had thought about a Tasmanian timber frame, but those are cost prohibitive. And then a friend asked me “are you selling the photo or the frame?” and I had yet another epiphany.
In the coming weeks, you will see new products added to the web site.