Roman practiced several kinds of metallurgy, from goldsmithing to mirror making, which in turn contributed to his expertise in photographic chemistry. Although he was a prototypical local photographer, Roman garnered praise in Parisian photographic circles for his artisanal innovations in making paper negatives at a time when this process was quickly being supplanted by glass negatives. Roman demonstrated his technical skill with this large waxed paper negative depicting a model of a kind of locomotive manufactured in Arles beginning in 1843. Best known for its ancient ruins and romanesque churches, Arles was home to a station on the Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée (PLM) Railroad. The model locomotive cuts such a sharp profile in this oversized negative that it takes on a monumental appearance, aided by Roman’s addition of black ink on the topmost portion of the negative to isolate the machine from its surroundings. The result testifies to photography’s ability to play with size and scale, and lends support to the often repeated analogy between the locomotive and the camera, two modern inventions that dramatically expanded the parameters of space and time for nineteenth-century audiences.
Inscription: [no inscriptions or annotations visible]
(sold, Etude Tajan, Paris, November 24, 1997, lot 187); Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 57," August 22, 2011–January 9, 2012.
From Etude Tajan catalogue: "Les ateliers P.L.M. furent crées a Arles en 1843. Leur construction dura jusqu'en 1856, on y fabriqua aussi bien des nouvelles voies qui devaient prolonger la ligne vers la Cote d'Azur, que du materiel roulant. On peut penser que Dominique Roman, photographe à Arles, ait voulu temoigner de la nouveauté d'une des premières locomotives à vapeur produite par ces ateliers, ce faisant il nous laisse une image surprenante par sa modernité dans une oeuvre plutot tournée vers l'inventaire architectural."