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  • Jerry King Musser

Resting on His Laurels

LLOYD MIFFLIN was not lazy about his painting.

But, 'this is a photo' you say. Yes, but Lloyd was mostly curious about the 'technology' of photography and didn't think much of it as 'art.' For him, it was a tool. This image was never intended to be publicly viewed.

At first glance, it's a strange image. Almost scary. But, there was logic behind it.

During the late 19th century, cameras were slow. Well... recording the image was slow, arduous... tedious, in truth. A subject had to remain still for a number of seconds. To that end, many early photo studios applied a simple device that would telescope up from behind the subject and cradle their head. This would allow the subject to rest so the photograph's long exposure time wouldn't cause a blur.

Lloyd devised his own, shown here.

Lloyd Mifflin often used photography as a way to reference objects, scenes, trees, livestock, etc. to, more accurately, paint them. It seems that, in this case, he required a particular head position for a painting... or, perhaps, even a 'self-portrait'? Whatever the need, he used himself as a reference. A bulb held in the hand could be squeezed which, in turn, would trip the exposure on the camera without having to leave his position, which is likely what he did in this case. On the other hand, he may have employed an assistant to do such tasks.

Photo: Pennsylvania State Archives

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