I want to begin this new year with a review of the website luminous-lint.com, launched in 2005, and ten years old as of December 2015. This ever changing non-linear resource site for the history of photography, full of beautifully reproduced images, is the untiring work of one man, Alan Griffiths. The site is so named, Griffiths says, because the website is about “connections between people and ideas to help improve our knowledge” (read his full explanation here).
Photographer-artist-writer Robert Hirsch, in his publication Light and Lens: Photography in the Digital Age (2012), listed Luminous-Lint among “top-notch” photographic sites. I could not agree more, and I have been a subscriber since the site switched to what I call a pay-to-get-more site.
Access to Luminous-Lint was free until 2014, when Griffiths found it necessary to put a subscription plan in place. Considering the extent of the site, and the amount of work that running it entails, it is understandable that full access involves a charge. Subscriptions, in USD with links for Canadian dollars, range from a low of $8.00 per month, or $88 a year for an Individual, to a high of $1,000 a year for Institutions (government departments, non-photo museums and galleries, appraisers and auction houses). An Educational subscription for up to fifty users is $300 a year, with a lower rate of $270 for SPE (Society of Photographic Education) members. There is a free bibliography on Alfred Steiglitz and a few other links available to everyone, as examples of the kind of information to which all Subscribers have access.
As of this post, the site contains over 750,000 photography-related pages. Nothing else quite like it is found online. The MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) site, Object:Photo (reviewed in Multi-Media & Technology Reviews in August 2015 ) which takes a different approach to its content, is similar to Luminous-Lint in the way that connections are made among the 341 photographs by 148 artists, all 20th century photographs from one collection. But these are primarily 1920s and 1930s images, so the photo-historical coverage on Object:Photo is not nearly as broad as is that found on Luminous-Lint, which is global in scope, dating from photography’s origins into the 21st century.
On the Luminous-Lint home page, you will always see a Photograph of the Day. You will find a quick search box, as well as a search area in which to narrow your search — for Photographers, Connections (themes, exhibitions, visual indexes), or the Directory of organizations. Below that is the Recently Updated Themes list. There’s also a link to subscribe, where one can compare Free and Premium Content.
The list of Recently updated Themes has included Photo-Jewelry, Cameras, Daguerreotypes, Tintypes, Spirit Photography, Snapshots, and other subjects that continually interest me, and are germane to my ongoing research. I am indeed, like a kid in a candy shop whenever I visit Luminous-Lint. Much found on this site is available nowhere else.
Of the eleven links in the list found on the left on the home page, “Contents,” is searched best as an alphabetical listing . Clicking it, and the category Art, for instance, takes one to a lengthy outline with linked subcategories. For non-subscribers, those links are not live (and are in black print), but subscribers are able to get to all included data (live links in red). Links relate to the many, many ways photography and “art” intersect.
The Timeline is another way to take a look at the broad coverage of the site. Links under each decade, 1830 to the present, are for View Photo, Political, Cultural, Photography. Clicking a particular year may, for example, cite a book published that year, natural disasters that occurred, images that are dated that year, and exhibitions that took place that year.
There are other ways to access the multi-connected data. Navigating through the 64,000 images via the Themes and the 681 Online Exhibitions, is fairly simple. Griffiths tells me that his focus is now on the Themes, rather than on the Online Exhibitions, because, “texts and visual indexes are the key.” At present, as far as I know, searches cannot be saved, which could be useful.
Themes are curated and continually updated, with subscribers connected to resources that include biographies, books, and articles. Clicking a Theme and a resulting image may lead one to “The Photo History Visualizer,” or PHV, allowing faster navigation through the thousands of topics and examples. Citations are given for each image which link back to the Directory, with a final link to the repository or other source holding the original.
Calendars, another link listed at left on Home, is free and it lists dates of photo-history events and birth and death dates for photographers and related persons for every month. A subscriber can link to any photographer whose name appears in Red (a live link). You might find here publications about them, galleries and other collection holding their images, and more information on that particular photographer. You may also notice QR scans, which are not used at present, but will be in the future. Stay tuned for that.
Navigating Luminous-Lint on a laptop or PC is easy, although links can sometimes be slow to load. Using it on a tablet or a cell phone is also easy, but with the latter, it may be necessary to move left or right in order to see an entire image set. A free newsletter, a Twitter account @LuminousLint and a Facebook page are also associated with the site, the last more static and not as current as the website.
In the next few years Griffiths plans to add more information on photo-history of Central and South America, Northern and Eastern Europe, and on the Arab World. He is ultimately responsible for content, but contributions come from guest curators, authors, collectors, and “over 2,500 people, estates and institutions.”
Anyone with knowledge of historic, as well as contemporary photography is invited to suggest additions, new themes, or online exhibitions. To make recommendations, ask questions, or suggest corrections, contact Griffiths at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I believe that Luminous-Lint is an excellent source for the photo, popular, and cultural historian. It is also perfect for family historians to peruse and learn about processes and formats, and more. I would highly recommended subscription access to this website for schools with photography, popular or cultural history, and related subject departments.
As you may have gathered, I like Luminous-Lint very much and will continue to sing its praises. That it is basically the work of one man simply amazes me. Bravo Alan Griffiths, you are doing a marvelous job and every photo historian owes you a round of applause. Let him hear it folks!
© E. Lee Eltzroth and Hunting & Gathering, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from this blog’s author is prohibited. The piece can be re-blogged, and excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to E. Lee Eltzroth and Hunting & Gathering, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.