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British Journal of Photography Almanac Annual Summary of Photographic Inventions and Events in Photographic History/1869

From George Eastman House : Notes On Photographs

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Edited by J. Traill Taylor

The past year has witnessed a marked advance in the quality of photographic portraits. The impetus given to this department by the display in the French Exhibition of the pictures of M. Adam-Salomon has borne good fruit in this country. At that time we, one and all, confessed that, as a nation, we had something still to learn-a higher artistic altitude to which we must aspire. “All may do what has by man been done” was the motto taken up by many of our portrait artists, and to the accomplishment of this purpose many bent all their energies.

“The keen sprit
Seizes the prompt occasion-makes the thoughts
Start into instant action and at once
Plans and performs, resolves and executes!”

The result has been that a much higher and more effective class of portraits are now being produced than was the case at the close of last year.

In landscape work a similar advance has not been made- probably because there is less to be achieved in this department. The dry processes so conductive to success in landscape operations have, however, during the past year received much attention; and among those now practiced, and which will be found described in other pages, will be found some which satisfy all the requirements of a photographic artist-with, perhaps, the sold exception of rapidity. This quality has been obtained by highly bromised firms and strong silver baths; but photographers, as yet, do not appear to have considered that the advantages gained counterbalance attendant disadvantages, real or imagined.

By the addition of small doses of permanganate of potash to the nitrate bath when fogging, in consequence of the presence of organic matter, a ready and effective manner of curing an acknowledged evil is obtained. The subject has during the year just closed been much discussed, and the remedial agency of the permanganate is now acknowledged. The bath should be rendered neutral by carbonate of soda before it is added, and the presence of a slowly disappearing pink colour indicated the proper quantity. A drop of diluted nitric acid then added completes the cure.

Our opticians are now giving us lenses which work with the wide apertures, giving freedom from distortion.

In the matter of artificial light zirconia has been proposed as a substitute for lime in the oxyhydrogen light’ and, if all that has been said about it be true, this useful source of illumination will be freed form a great drawback, viz., the bad quality of lime frequently met with. Zirconia has not yet been introduced into this country, but in the course of a few weeks it is expected to be commercially introduced here.

The electric lamp is receiving much attention in its construction at the hands of Browning and others. I have seen it applied to the magic lantern, and, with so small a power as six cells, the result was highly satisfactory.

Magnesium is about to suffer a great reduction in price, and this metal, when used in connection with Solomon’s lamp, will, doubtless, in the future, be much employed for photographic enlargements. Difficulties which formerly intervened in the way of obtaining a steady and uniform light are now disappearing, and the magnesium lamp is taking, in consequence, a higher position.

One desirable feature is attracting attention-that of the production of vitrified photographs on enameled tablets. Photographs of this kind and of great excellence are now produced in this country.

In connection with printing attention must be directed to an article by Mr. Fowler in these pages, in which will be found a description of the latest novelty-a paper sensitised b y means of carbonate of silver. The Editor has in his possession some pictures thus produced, and they are of very fine quality.

The convenient little opera-glass camera of MM. Geymet and Alker has, during the closing of the year, been carefully tried by the Editor. He admires its mechanism, and has used it successfully on every occasion that he made the attempt; but he confesses that it is somewhat of a “bore” to have to enlarge every picture taken before it can be seen in a presentable form, for the plates are in size only about an inch square, and the lens being a portrait combination, great sharpness (suitable for successful enlargement) is only obtained on an area of very limited extent, unless an exceedingly small stop indeed is employed. A really useful camera might be made on this principle if, instead of plates of one inch, a size three and a-half inches square were adopted. A modification of the plate box might be made to permit of this being done. The changing principle is so simple it is a pity to see it confined to such a small size of plate.