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British Journal of Photography Almanac Annual Summary of Photographic Inventions and Events in Photographic History/1879

From George Eastman House : Notes On Photographs

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Edited by J. Traill Taylor

No event possessing any marked feature of interest or value has occurred during 1878 causing it to stand out in conspicuous relief in comparison with previous years; but, while this is true, it is also not less so that the progress of the year reaches a respectable average. Photography is comparatively a science of steady, if slow, growth, and every year contributes its quota to the perfecting of new ideas.

The importance of securing prints in permanent materials is now thoroughly recognized, and much praise is due to the Autotype Company, Dr. Monckhoven, Mr. J.R. Johnson, and others who have by scientific research, observation, or experiment discovered and eliminated sources of objection to the tones or purity of carbon prints. The result of this is that at no previous period in the history of carbon printing have tissues of such excellence been accessible to the public as those now dispensed by the great Ealing-Dene company above named or by the younger establishment in Ghent.

During last summer Mr. J. G. Tunny directed attention to a certain deterioration in the whites of carbon prints which had been exposed to strong light for several days. A suspicion that this deterioration was due to the sizing material by which plain paper is converted into transfer paper, resulted in prompt and minute investigation by the Autotype Company, who found that this depreciation of tone under the action of light was a peculiarity of many of the finest makes of paper at the present time, and was quite independent of any treatment it received by way of adapting it for transfer paper. The deduction to be drawn from this discovery is the necessity for exercising great care on the part of the makers both of albumenised paper for silver printing and of transfer paper for carbon printing, and the imperative need for insisting upon the various “mills” sending out paper sufficiently stable as not to become tinted by even a prolonged exposure to light.

Appliances for producing artistic prints have during the year 1878 come strongly to the front. Among the printing-frames for double printing with correct registration may be mentioned with commendation those respectively of Mr. T. G. Hemery and Mr. Talbot Lane. These have been described in recent issues of THE BRITISH JOURNAL OF PHOTOGRAPY.

The platinotype process of Mr. W. Willis, Jun., has made an important advance during the past year. By a slight modification in the preparation of the paper the necessity for making use of silver salts with the attendant employment of hyposulphite of soda has been overcome, and the process is now reduced to as state of great simplicity as well as of practical efficiency.

In apparatus, improvements upon our portable cameras have been made by Mr. George Hare, Messrs. Rouch and Co., Mr. J. L. Lane and others; while by M. Cadett and Messrs. Cowan and Cussons the sciences of pneumatics and electricity have been made to do duty in working apparatus whereby to cap and uncap the lens.

As more commercial firms than previously have recognized the advantages to be derived from the more general employment of dry plates in the studio, portrait photographers are at length being aroused to the fact that for numerous purposes dry plates may, under many circumstances, supersede wet collodion. When Mr. R. Kennett first introduced gelatine dry plates possessing a degree of sensitiveness far in excess of that of wet collodion the majority of photographers could not realise the fact, and hence more plates were spoiled from over-exposure than from all other causes combined, and in consequence this commercial pioneer in gelatine plates was compelled to discontinue the preparation of plates more sensitive than wet collodion, and such plates are now readily obtainable. Mr. Charles Bennett, a London amateur, gave a great stimulus to this department of photography by the exhibition of some wonderful results obtained by him, and still more by his publication of the details of his method of working.

The utilisation of artificial lights for the purpose of producing effective and artistic portraits has been proved during the past year. The sources of light are electricity and pyrotechnic compounds of the well known “signal fire’ and “Bengal light” class. Another boon to photographers has been supplied by Messrs. J. Avery and Co., who have cleverly adapted for background designs a mattvarnished cloth of a peculiar kind, original introduced for other purposes. This forms a most useful background.

From these few “notes” it will be seen that photography is not merely alive, but is steadily progressing.