What makes a good documentary is surprising. The verb surprising, not the adjective. There is something so satisfying about sharing an astounding insight, revealing new information, or providing the lens that allows someone to see a familiar thing with fresh eyes.
When you're researching a subject that has been well covered over the course of more than a century, sources often re-tell similar stories and cite familiar facts. But once in a while, you hear something that snaps you to attention. That's why talking with Chris Lane last week was so much fun. Lane is the co-owner of The Philadelphia Print Shop and a regular contributor to PBS' Antiques Road Show.
In our interview at WGBY's studio, Chris revealed that he doesn't buy the oft-told tale that the Lexington disaster print launched Nathaniel Currier's career. He demands the statistics that back that up. He's lively on this topic and so many others because he just never accepts the conventional wisdom about Currier & Ives. His is an historian's mind, always digging deeper and challenging the easy answers. I know you'll enjoy his presence throughout the series because he combines elevated knowledge with a down-to-earth delivery.
The crew later drove to pretty Deerfield, Massachusetts to catch Chris Lane at work at an astounding Antiques Fair. Here, he showed me something I'd never noticed before: a print in which some of the faces appear to be photographically copied onto bodies. Chris is sure they are photographic images and not drawn and indeed, they do look different than other faces in the lithograph. There are other Currier & Ives pictures in which he says the same technique was used. After a little more research, I think we will look at some of those prints in the series and explore why the technique may have been used. This information was a fascinating surprise.
This week, I'll be setting up some Fall shoots at Old Sturbridge Village and the Springfield Museums and, of course, the writing continues. I'll keep you posted.