Edited by J. Traill Taylor
It is meet that the opening article of an Almanac like the present annual volume should be devoted to a brief retrospect of the doings of the past year. That retrospect will necessarily be brief, for the simple reason that, although steady progress in the details of photographic art-science has been made, nothing of a starling, novel, or sensational nature has occurred in the way of discovery.
The depressed condition of commerce throughout the year has exercised a disastrous influence upon many trades and professions; and photography has not been exempt from commercial public patronage of photography to its general and true cause-universal depression of trade-some photographers are trying to discover its source in the shortcomings of the productions of the art; and the questions-How shall greater permanence be secured in photographs? and How shall the art-status of photographers be raised? –have absorbed some degree of attention. Now photographic business has been dull simply because all professions have during the past year been similarly suffering, and it were folly to expect an exception in this case. However, out of evil good frequently arises, and the result of this depression will be that the permanence and artistic character of photographs will be somewhat raised.
To conduce to their permanence, several suggestions of value have been made to respond to. With the view of shielding the delicate image on paper from those adverse external influences which are known to act deleteriously, varnishes of various kinds have been brought forward. Mr. Newman, of Sohosquare, entered the field with a lac print varnish, which seems to leave little more to be desired; Mr. Stuart, of Glasgow, suggested the saturation of the prints by means of collodion, which Mr. Blanchard has since strenuously advocated; and Mr. Tunny, of Edinburgh, recommended a solution of paraffine in benzole as a means for affording the desired protection to the print. Mr. Cooper has also given much attention to the last preservative. These three protective agents- lac, collodion, and paraffine-have each their respective advocates; and some special advantages may, doubtless, be claimed for each.
Towards the close of the year, the advantages of India-rubber in the mounting of prints, as a substitute for paste, starch or glue, have been advanced by Mr. J.V. Robinson, of Dublin, and his advocacy is being largely responded to throughout the kingdom. This substance was in use some time ago, but it would appear that of late its virtues as an excellent means of mounting prints have been somewhat overlooked.
In the negative processes, wet collodion remains, at the end of the year, in nearly the same position as the opening of the year found it. Dry collodion processes, however, are always making some advancement. Mr. England has modified the collodio-albumen process so as to secure ease of manipulation, fair sensitiveness and keeping qualities, with excellence of result. A description of Mr. England’s process will be found in another page. Mr. Barholomew, too, who has for some years been employing morphia, in one form or another, in photography, has succeeded in rendering it specially available as a protective wash, or preservative, in the dry process. It yields plates have a considerable degree of sensitiveness, although their keeping qualities are not equal to those prepared by other methods. Mr. Russell Manners Gordon publishes in this volume a method of preserving plates, to which attention may be directed. The preparation of the plates is simple, and the results are unexceptionable.
In mechanics, the head and body rest of Mr. Harrison (of Leeds), the printingframes of Cubley and Preston, the vibrating lucella lamp of Mr. Skaife, the new portable tent and the India rubber padded pressure-frames of Mr. Meagher, all indicate progress in this direction. In lenses, the leading opticians, Mr. Ross and Mr. Dallmeyer, have each brought out new and patented productions, which, there is little doubt, will still further enhance their already great reputation.
The important discovery of the past year has been that M. Adams-Salomon, a Parisian photographer, has produced portraits of so high class as to show us the true capabilities of photography, and how much we have yet to overcome ere similar perfection can be c claimed for the works of our average artists. It is far from being pleasant to know that we are so far behind the Parisians; but, believing such to be the case, the knowledge of the fact will, without doubt, rouse English artists to a sense of their shortcomings and the particular direction in which progress must be made. In the course of another year we shall possibly occupy the same status in portraiture as we now do in the landscapes-viz., the highest position in the world.
“Friend after friend departs.” Within the closing days of the year Mr. John Mawson, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a gentleman whose mane has been intimately associated with the manufacture of collodion almost since its introduction, met with a sudden and violent death through the explosion of some nitro-glycerine. Mr. Mawson was respected by all who knew him, and his loss is much deplored.