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British Journal of Photography Almanac Annual Summary of Photographic Inventions and Events in Photographic History/1881

From George Eastman House : Notes On Photographs

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Edited by W. B. Bolton

In looking back over the past or passing year of grace 1880 it is difficult to fix upon any features of special note which will mark it as a year of progress. No new discoveries have been made, and but few improvements upon old processes have been placed on record, yet the year has not been without its lessons.

The constant, or even casual, reader of the photographic journals, whether in this country or abroad, scarcely needs to be told that the gelatine or, to speak more correctly, the gelatino-bromide process has been the all-pervading topic not only in the literature of the art-science but also in the daily practice of both amateur and professional. Little else has been written about, but little else spoken of at the meetings of societies, while the exhibitions have been full of the work of those who have turned from their old wet-collodion habits to take up the “new “ process, which affords them so many facilities that the time-honoured and hitherto unsurpassable wet process was incapable of offering. Whether the change has been, or will be in the long run, beneficial remains a moot question in many minds; and there are not wanting those who declare that the quality of work now produced by means of gelatine is in most important particulars inferior to that hitherto attained with collodion. Setting aside the artistic and technical qualities of the best on the subject-it is to be borne in mind that, so far as the majority of our best manipulators are concerned, gelatino-bromide is yet but on its trial. Its capabilities, except in the matter of mere sensitiveness, are as yet unknown, and the best methods of manipulation but partly explored. Can it, then, be reasonably anticipated that a new process which, so far as the professional photographer is concerned, may be said to have sprung into existence within the last two years, is to be placed in direct competition with the old and well-tried wet process and its attendant experience of thirty years? Possibly, before one quarter of that period has passed over our heads gelatino-bromide may have raised itself or been raised to an undisputed position, and may have silenced the doubts of even the loudest cavilers of the present day. There is certainly that in the quality of the results produced by its means, no less than in the new power it gives to photographers, which promises and entirely new era of photograph.

Very little alteration of a serious character has been made in the general principles of the process during the year, attention having been turned chiefly to perfecting the minor details of its working. Perhaps the most important innovation has been the introduction of iodide by Captain Abney in place of plain bromide of silver, which had been hitherto almost solely self employed. The principle benefit conferred by this addition is found in the possibility of working in a less obscure light than was necessary with the plain bromide emulsion; but certain other advantages-the prevention of halation and the production of clearer images-give iodide further claims upon our attention. It has been alleged by some that the addition of iodide destroys the sensitiveness of an emulsion as well as the keeping qualities of the dried films; but this question is still sub judice, and will remain as one of the points for experiment in the year now approaching.

In printing processes there is very little novelty to record. The silver process still retains the position it has held for the last few years; indeed, if anything, there appears to be a slight reaction in its favour. The various forms of permanent impression also remain very nearly in statu quo, thought some slight improvement has been made in this country in the quality of results obtained by the collotype process. In the newest of all styles of printing-the platinotype-an important advance has, however, been made in the removal of the last chances of decay for the finished image. The salts of silver and lead, which had been previously found absolutely necessary to the production of pleasing tones, are now entirely dispensed with, and the finished image is composed of pure platinum only, thus offering the greatest chance of absolute permanency that a chemist can conceive. The platinotype appears destined to occupy the position of the printing process of the future.

There has been the usual amount of activity amongst the societies, and we have to record the formation of one new one in this country-the Dundee and East of Scotland. The Photographic Club-whose formation was recorded in the last ALMANAC-has continued to exhibit an almost unexampled degree of vitality, especially when it is considered that its meeting take place weekly. In addition to the old-established exhibitions of the Photographic Society of Great Britain and of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnics Society, there will be opened, as we go to press, the International Exhibition of the Bristol and West of England Amateur Photographic Association, while the newly formed Dundee and East of Scotland Photographic Association announce an exhibition for next year, so that there is every prospect of increased encouragement to photographers in the production of artistic work.

Death has removed comparatively few for us during the past year; but amongst those whose names we miss are Messrs. George Wharton Simpson, William Huggon, and William Murray-all of whom have, in their way, done yeoman service to our art and science.