Some of you have asked about sources for old photographs like the ones I’ve been using in my encaustic photocollage series. My favorite place to look is Flickr Commons, particularly the Library of Congress albums. Be warned: perusing these photos is addictive – you can get lost in history! It’s wonderful.
So what about copyright? The photos I use are all categorized as “no known copyright exists” or “no known restriction on publication.” This means that either there was a copyright and it was not renewed, or, more likely in my case, the image is from a late 19th or early 20th century collection for which there is no evidence of any rights holder. It’s extremely important to read about copyright before you choose an image to use in your artwork – here’s the Library of Congress link, and it’s written in fairly simple terms (explaining copyright in the digital age is like trying to nail Jell-o to a wall).
You’re probably going to transform the photograph in some way. Most of them are already black and white or sepia toned, but you will most likely want to enhance the lighting and contrast to provide the most dramatic effect for your artwork. Even if you don’t have Photoshop or other industry-standard photoediting software, you can still have fun working with iPiccy or PicMonkey. These allow you to upload a saved photograph that you’ve found and edit it online, then save it back to your computer.
You’ll find that when you’re going through the old photos, one or two will just reach out to you as subjects, almost as if they are saying across time, “Choose me!“. That’s the amazing part. And once you have your special photo edited and printed, you’re ready to start your collage!