Edited by W. B. Bolton
Whatever may be the general opinion as to the progressive character of the year 1881 in matters photographic, there can be no disputing the fact that the task of selecting and chronicling its notable events and occurrences is a more than usually difficult one. In saying this, I do not wish to imply that it has been a year of stagnation-far from it. The records in the journals show that at least the usual amount of energy has been displayed by experimentalists, and the character of the work which has appeared in the exhibitions sufficiently testifies that that practical workers have not been slow in applying the experience thus placed at their disposal.
It scarcely needs to be said that the all-pervading feature of the year has been the gradual spread of gelatino-bromide plates in every direction- o in this country merely, bun in every portion of the globe. The gradual improvement in our knowledge of the working of dry plates, and the removal one by one of the difficulties which have hitherto formed stumbling-blocks, have, at length, firmly established the new order of things in many studios where previously the experimental stage had scarcely been passed.
Amongst the details of the processes which have received special attention during the year may be mentioned the important operation of development; and, thanks to the published experience of some of the leading dry-plate workers-including Mr. W. K. Burton, Colonel Wortely, and Captain Abney-much new light has been thrown upon what has hitherto been considered a difficult and somewhat uncertain process. Closely allied to development is intensification; and here, again, a considerable amount of labour has been expended. In the earliest days of the practice of gelatine the necessity was felt for a suitable means of strengthening the sadly too numerous negatives which, for over-exposure or other causes, were deficient in density. The various methods of mercurial intensification-which, so far s collodion negatives are concerned, has almost lapsed into oblivion-were resuscitated and many new ones added; but there is too much reason to fear that those who have placed implicit faith in the permanence of their negatives so treated have had bitter cause to regret what must be called their misplaced confidence. From mercurial back to silver intensification, it has been attempted to show, is an easy and a desirable change, and very plain instructions have been published for working the latter method.
Those who will look back at their gelatine negatives two years ago, will probably find amongst them many which, though they satisfied at the time, and possibly printed in a tolerably respectable manner, would at the present day be rejected. It came to be accepted as a part and parcel of the gelatine negative that it should be entirely different from a collodion one. In place of the clear glass shadows of the latter it was customary to accept the dull, smoky-coloured films which were supposed to be a necessity with gelatine. It has been proved, however, that not only are such fogged or veiled images not a necessity in gelatine negatives, but that if accidentally such a result show be obtained it may in the majority of cases be entirely removed. For this purpose alum-mixed according to different operators with various substances-has come into general use, and plays a by no means unimportant part in the photographic laboratory.
In the department of emulsion making nothing very striking has occurred during the year. Dr. G. A. Kenyon has shown that it is possible to conduct the principal portion of the operations necessary in ordinary daylight if the emulsion be subsequently treated with bichromate of potash. Mr. W.K. Burton and others have endeavoured to simplify the process of freeing the emulsion form soluble salts; and considerable discussion has taken place with regard to the value or otherwise of silver iodide in the emulsion.
Mr. L. Warnerke has discovered a new fact in connection with gelatinebromide plates, and one which he hopes to apply usefully in different ways. He has found that the film, after exposure and development with pryo. And ammonia becomes insoluble in proportion to the extent of the combined action of the light and developer. Utilising this fact he proposes to apply it to various purposes, including not only the production of negatives but also photoglyptic moulds.
Mr. W. B. Woodbury has made a still further improvement on his process of printing in permanent colour, to which he has given the name of “Stannotype;” but it is not yet worked in this country. It consists in making a gelatine relief in the ordinary way as for Woodburytype printing, using a positive instead of a negative, so as to produce a reversed relief. This, when dry, is “faced” with tinfoil and used as the printing matrix, dispensing entirely with the costly hydraulic press and other machinery. The process is thus so simplified as to be brought within the reach of any ordinary photographer.
Amongst the scientific events of the year must be classed the appearance of at least tow comets, one of which has been successfully photographed by Dr. Huggins, Dr. Draper, and others.
Electric lighting is gradually working its way into use as an auxiliary in portraiture, and the recent inventions of M. Faure, enabling electrical force to be stored for use, promise to render its employment more general.
We have to record the formation of two new societies, namely, the Newcastle-on-Tyne and Northern Counties’ Photographic Association and the North Wales Amateur Photographic Society.
Besides the ordinary annual exhibitions of the Photographic Society of Great Britain and the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society, there have been exhibitions at Manchester and Newcastle; and within a few weeks of the appearance of these lines three more are announced-one under the auspices of the Society of Arts, another at Dundee, and the third at Sheffield.
Amongst those removed by death during the past year we have to regret the loss of Messrs. J. R. Johnson, M. Noton, Adam-Salomon, S. R. Lock, and R. W. Thomas-all well known names in connection with the past history of photography.