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British Journal of Photography Almanac Annual Summary of Photographic Inventions and Events in Photographic History/1873

From George Eastman House : Notes On Photographs

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Edited by J. Traill Taylor

The sum of a rapid retrospect over the events of the past year is that the artscience of photography is in a much more advanced state than it was at the beginning of last year.

In processes a greater degree of attention has been bestowed upon the collodio-bromide than on any other, the great effort being to obtain sensitiveness without a loss of those other qualities that must be found in all dry plates. A very exalted degree of sensitiveness has been secured, and plates can now be obtained, commercially, which are only in a very slight degree inferior to those freshly prepared with wet collodion. It is due to Colonel Stuart Wortley to say that for many of the conditions under which the collodio-bromide process may be worked with rapidity, and above all, with an emulsion retaining its good qualities for several weeks after preparation, we are indebted to that gentleman. The enfeebled heath of Mr. M. Carey Lea has caused him to retire for a year or more form the active pursuit of photography; but all his labours in connection with the process named are well remembered and duly appreciated. A serious drawback to the use of collodio-bromide emulsions by amateurs was found in the fact that after the emulsion had been prepared it rapidly deteriorated, becoming useless after two or three days. By the addition of nitrate of uranium this tendency is happily overcome. This addition of nitrate of uranium this tendency is happily overcome. This addition also permits more free silver to be added to the collodion, ensuring great sensitiveness.

In no previous year has the progress of producing enlargements been so rapid as in that just past; more especially has this progress been manifested toward the end of the year. The delicacy and beauty of some of the enlargements more recently produced cause them to be generally acknowledged as being not merely equal but superior to the generality of the large portraits obtained by the use of large lenses; and it is significant that several London photographers of reputation have already disposed of their large lenses as instruments for which they have no further need. Quite apart from the expense of the lens, camera, and other apparatus necessary to take a large-sized portrait from life, the amount of trouble and time expended on its production is very great; whereas, the making of an enlargement from a small negative is now an operation of the greatest simplicity, the result being, as I have said, frequently superior to that obtained by a large lens. One of the tow great events of the year 1872 is undoubtedly the high state of perfection to which enlargements have been brought.

In appliances for working wet collodion in the field, two new tents have been ushered into existence. One is a portable apparatus by Mr. Stillman, which servers, when not in use, as a packing case for the chemicals; the other is a light-tight operating chamber of textile material, which can fold up and go into the pocket. Mr. Howard is the inventor of the latter. Between these two pieces of field-operating apparatus wet-plate photography in the open country will be greatly facilitated during the year before us.

No progress can be recorded in the relation to the optical department of photography, lenses remaining in the same position in which the beginning of the past year found them. A want experienced in photographic lenses is somewhat similar in character to that brought out by a Parisian optician a few years since, namely, a single mount to which can be adapted a number of lenses of various foci to suit the requirements of the operator, these forming either single landscape lenses or non-distorting doublets at will.

Mechanical printing has in this country made much progress during the year. Specimens of collotypic printing by London firms can now be placed side by side with the works of such continental firms as Ohm and Grossman without the superiority of the latter being so strongly marked as they once were.

In the department of photography that relates to pigments some degree of sensation was called forth by the introduction of a method of stippling the background of portraits by simple mechanical means. Mr. Vander Weyde’s claims for novelty lay in the application, by friction with the hand or finger, of a mixture of pulverized pumice-stone and powdered crayon. Since this method was introduced other means, unpatented, of achieving similar results have been published, some account of which will be found in my summary of inventions in another portion of this work.

Improved methods of making backgrounds have been brought forward during the year. Mr. R. Faulkner has invented one method , which the nature of which, being patented, I am not acquainted, but which, judging from the specimens I have seen, must necessarily be excellent. Mr. Tunny’s method of making a graduated background is of a character analogous to the application of powdery colour to a daguerreotype; the colours, previously ground up with size, and afterwards dried and powdered, are applied by a dabber, and then fixed by moisture.

We are fortunately able to report that death has been less busy among photographers during the past year than in the year preceding. The names of two who have recently departed-Mr. Macpherson, of Rome, and Mr. James How, of Foster Lane, London-have long been familiarly known to photographers. Their memories will not soon be forgotten.