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North 100 News A New Emily Dickinson Emerges

Emily DIckinson daguerreotype with Kate Scott

Every so often a project comes our way that is so fascinating we can barely contain our excitement. With facebook and Twitter just finger tips away we were anxious to reveal our participation in what could be a significant historical find!

We can now reveal one such project that started for us three years ago.

One of our clients came to us with a daguerreotype he felt could be a long lost photo of the reclusive American author, Emily Dickinson. To date, there is only one authenticated photograph of Emily Dickinson—one that was taken when she was young and sickly. In fact, it has been stated by some of Emily's contemporaries that this photo did not capture the true Emily.

Over the years various photos have surfaced, each claiming to be of Emily Dickinson, but none have been universally accepted by Dickinson experts. Until perhaps now...

Meeting at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, July 2010

At first sight, the daguerreotype our client had found was intriguing. Viewing it next to the known photo of Emily left our eyes playing ping-pong as we compared features back and forth.

Putting our Adobe® Photoshop skills to work, we brought the photos into one Photoshop file and put them on individual Photoshop layers. Using precise measurements and different degrees of opacity between the layers in Photoshop, we were able to transition between the two photos—transition from the old to the new and back again.

It was chilling to witness! Could this really be Emily? A healthy, mature, and content Emily emerging before our eyes. We were very excited and especially thrilled for our client.

Dim lights

This visual confirmation was just the beginning in what proved to be a lengthy process of waiting on meetings, reports, and assessments.

Our client worked tirelessly in getting this daguerreotype in front of several experts to analyze, measure, and compare. He was so thoughtful to credit our work as the visual "wow" factor in getting his photo noticed and in front of several experts.

Meeting at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, July 2010

Accompanying our client, we presented our files and overlay presentations at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. In attendance was Susan M. Pepin, M.D., Director of Neuro-Ophthalmology. We made pixel-by-pixel adjustments on the alignment per her specifications. (As you can see in part of the video, the outlines that appear in blue represent some of the measurements and constraints.) All in attendance were excited and very hopeful.

It should be noted that we also performed control overlays using other photographs to help form a more compelling case. It is important to also add that absolutely no photo manipulation was done in these overlays.

We eagerly awaited for Dr. Pepin to perform the ophthalmological assessments on both photographs. After several weeks, Dr. Pepin's report came in. She too felt it was Emily! (Her full report can be found here).

In addition to Dr. Pepin's analysis and report, other compelling evidence emerged. The woman next to Emily may be none other than Kate Scott Turner, a known friend and companion of Emily. As well, the pattern in the dress Emily is wearing appears to match a swatch from the textile collection held at the Emily Dickinson Museum. To read about these additional findings and more, visit the website of Amherst College.

It's been a true pleasure and honor to work on a piece of American literary history of our very own beloved New England poet, Emily Dickinson. Her poetry still speaks to us today and I wonder what this new photo will say to those that have come to love her...

This is my letter to the World
That never wrote to me -
The simple News that Nature told -
With tender Majesty

Her message is Committed
To Hands I cannot see -
For love of Her - Sweet - Country-men -
Judge tenderly - of me

~Emily Dickinson


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