A 19thCentury Bachelor Abroad:
Beauchamp A. Pettibone, Esq. in Constantinople
By Paul Baker
A couple years ago, Inner Richmond resident and artist Paul Baker found a tintype (photo printed on tin, not paper) at one of his favorite stores, Past Perfecton on Geary Blvd. It jumpstarted an idea he’d had for a major sculpture. Paul works in found objects out of his 330 sq. foot studio in a converted garage on Cabrillo Street.
Baker not only named the person in the photo, he created an intricate backstory to add depth to the steamer trunk and cameras he built. He’s been working on the piece over a year now, and estimates it will take another two years or more. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy the story.
Meet Beauchamp A. Pettibone, Esq. He is 21 year old, the only child in an upper middle class family in London. His mother claims a dubious lineage with her favorite author Jane Austen, so the A. stands for Austen.
Beauchamp got consumption after his second year in college and was out for a year. He’s better now, but he has kind of lost his direction in life. His father is a branch manager of Barclay’s Bank, and his mother enjoyed travel when she was a young lady. They are eager for their son to be successful at something, so they suggest he go on a Grand Tour. Beauchamp eagerly accepts, and in the year 1893 he gets on a steamship for Constantinople (present Istanbul, Turkey).
Pettibone is an enthusiastic amateur photographer. He has two steamer trunks built for himself in London: one for his photographic gear, and one for his clothing. Unfortunately on the voyage over the first trunk with all his equipment is stolen. Beauchamp has some money…but is not crazy rich. He cannot simply buy all new camera equipment. So he decides to build himself five cameras from second-hand lenses and materials he finds in the Great Bazaar,and convert his remaining trunk into camera storage. (Paul admits this is where he comes in; he built the trunk and the cameras.)
Astute readers will note this trunk is labeled 2/2. Naturally it’s the second of the trunks – the one that held his clothing and was not stolen.
Beauchamp’s first camera is made of an old silver/nickel music box; he added the lens and viewfinder. A sheet of film is inserted (in the dark), B. makes the exposure, and returns to his rooms to develop the shot
It turns out he has a good eye and is especially talented at portraits. He finds he can make extra money (in order to continue his travels) by shooting pictures of the diplomats, army officers, aristocracy, and more in the close-knit British ex-pat community he meets through the consulate in Constantinople.
Click HERE for Part II of Beauchamp’s adventures. Thrill to his success (social and financial) as a young man in that city, and see more of his creative, found-object cameras.
Paul Baker is a Richmond District resident, a tinkerer and a fiction writer.
RichmondSunsetNews.com is sponsored in part by:
Click on graphic for more information.
Camera opened to insert a round sheet of film
More of Paul Baker’s art can be seen at www.c-clampstudios.com
### End of Part 1 ###