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Passage Discussion

Paragraph One:

In the first paragraph, the author introduces Jayne Hinds Bidaut, who revived the tintype technique in order to take pictures of insects. Just in case you do not know what a tintype is, its definition can be found in lines 7-8 and should be notated.

Paragraph Two:

The second paragraph introduces another photographer—Dan Estabrook—who imagines using old techniques to take photos that people would discover as “originals” in flea markets or antique shops.

Paragraph Three:

The third paragraph provides additional examples of obsolete photographic techniques that are suddenly en vogue. It is entirely unnecessary to remember every single one of them, so use a bracket to notate the examples (Ex.), and make a mental note to refer to that section of the passage when needed. There is no discernible point to this passage yet, but you should get a general sense of where it is going: old photographic techniques are being revived, and you should expect to find out why.

Paragraph Four:

In the fourth paragraph, the author outlines some of the motivations behind the contemporary revival of the old photographic processing. While its imperfections caused earlier photographers to seek more reliable replacements, these same imperfections are now exploited for artistic purposes. To exemplify this trend, the author mentions Estabrook: he embraced accident and unpredictability in photographic processing because they foster the illusion of antiquity.

Paragraph Five:

The last paragraph is rather vague, but its subtlety is key to understanding the author’s attitude toward artists’ uses of old photographic techniques. The author appreciates the fact that each photograph is a unique testament to the artist’s encounter with the world, and clearly values the intimacy of our experience generated by such photographs.


There are several Viewpoints expressed in this passage (Bidaut’s, Estabrook’s, the author’s), but there are no meaningful differences between them.

The Structure of the passage is as follows:
  • Paragraph 1: ..... Introduce Bidaut and describe what a tintype is.
    Paragraph 2: ..... Describe Estabrook’s penchant for planting fake antique photographs in flea markets.
    Paragraph 3: ..... Mention other photographic techniques that have recently been revived.
    Paragraph 4: ..... Explain the appeal of old photographic techniques to modern-day artists such as Estabrook.
    Paragraph 5: ..... Reveal the author’s attitude toward the use of old photographic techniques.
The author’s Tone is revealed primarily in the last paragraph. She appreciates the revival of old photographic techniques and understands their aesthetic appeal.

The primary Argument in the passage is that of the author, whose appreciation of old photographic techniques is supported by a series of observations regarding their modern use. It is important to recognize that the actual argument in defense of such techniques is not made until the last paragraph of the passage. The other argument to note is Estabrook’s, a photographer who embraces the imperfections of old photographic processes in order to achieve certain aesthetic effects. The two arguments are in agreement, and neither of them is challenged by a third party.

The Main Point is to account for the revival of various old photographic techniques and explain their aesthetic significance to modern artists.


In the broadest of terms, the purpose of the passage is to describe a recent artistic trend, and show appreciation for its aesthetic value.

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