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British Journal of Photography Almanac Annual Summary of Photographic Inventions and Events in Photographic History/1883

From George Eastman House : Notes On Photographs

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Edited by W. B. Bolton

Each year it becomes more and more necessary to plunge beneath the surface of current events in order to form a just estimate of the actual progress made in photography, and each year the task presents greater difficulties to the chronicler. The past year is no exception to the rule; for what progress has been made has been in the way of improvement rather than of discovery. The revolution of four years ago is complete so far as the displacement of wet collodion by gelatine is concerned, yet we are far from having settled down into any fixed groove in our system of working. On the contrary, on and all are striving to arrive at perfection in the working of various modifications of gelatinobromide process, both in the preparation of the plates and also in their development and after-treatment-with what amount of success the Exhibition of 1882 showed. While it was found that dry plates had almost universally replaced the favourite wet process of former days, there was, in addition, a marked improvement in the general character of the work, though it must be confessed that some of the few wet-plate pictures shown were considered by many competent judges to at least maintain their position, so far as quality was concerned.

In the matter of processes of preparation there is little to be recorded in the way of real novelty, thought a vast amount of work has been done in extending and improving the methods already in existence. Each of the rival systems of emulsification has received its fair share of attention, though the oldest and simplest, consisting of more or less prolonged emulsification, appears to be chiefly employed on the commercial scale. Considerable diversity of opinion has been expressed with regard to the respective merits of the “boiling” and “ammonia” methods, each giving its supporters; while a strong tendency has evinced to attempt to utilise the different “precipitation” systems. So many workers have been in the field that it is scarcely possible individualise, though it is best just o mention the names of Captain Abney and Mr. W. K. Burton in this connection.

Passing to development and similar matters, we find that a great amount of attention has been bestowed on both the alkaline pyro. and ferrous oxalate methods. In conjunction with the former of these, the chief feature of novelty has been the working–up of Mr. Herbert B. Berkeley’s recommendation to use sulphite of soda to prevent discolouration of the pyro. first made in last year’s ALMANAC. As with everything new, this has called forth very various opinions; but there can be little doubt but that in the majority of hands it has proved useful. Some operators, however, still prefer citric acid for that purpose, thought it has been shown that it exercises and equally important function in the developer. Mr. G. Watmough Webster was the first to point out that the alkaline citrates have a most powerful action in restraining or, rather, in arresting development; and, utilizing this fact, he proposed to employ these salts for the purpose of checking overexposure. Subsequent experiments have proved that otherwise hopelessly over-exposed plates may be successfully treated by this means.

The ferrous oxalate developer so much employed on the continent and in America has during the year advanced somewhat in popular method of preparing and using it. Various attempts have been made to prevent its deterioration by oxidation or to restore it when so spent, the most successful being M.E. Audra’s plan of adding tartaric acid and exposing the mixture to light.

Little, if any, alteration has occurred in printing processes; the platinotype method, however, is gradually pushing its way into favour. Encouraging results have been obtained with emulsion s of chloride of silver in combination with organic salts of the metal for positive printing- a method first suggested by Captain Abney. Plain chloride emulsion with ferrous citrate or ferrous citrooxalate development has also been used for the same purpose, and very charming results produced.

An important step has been taken by the Photographic Society of Great Britain, who, on the suggestion of Mr. Warnerke, appointed a committee to consider the possibility of establishing a standard system of measurement of the rapidity of lenses, and the results of the deliberations of the committee will be found in the present volume.

Amongst the scientific events of the year have been a total eclipse and the long-expected transit of Venus; and photography has played an important part in the observation of both.

Increasing activity has prevailed amongst the societies. In addition to the establishment of an extra series of so-called “technical meetings’ by the “Parent” Society, we have to record the formation of four new societies- two in the north (at Bury and Leeds respectively), the London and Provincial Photographic Society, which is the outcome of the “Thursday evening meetings,” established last year, and the Postal Photographic Society, which is a sort of exchange club confined to amateurs.

In addition to the two annual exhibitions in Pall Mall and at Falmouth there have been two others-one in connection with Captain Abney’s series of Cantor lectures on photography, at the Society of Arts; the other at Dundee.

The Edinburgh and Newcastle societies have each also instituted competitions which have taken the form of exhibitions on a small scale, the object being to provide suitable presentation pictures for distribution amongst their members.

Death has again been rife amongst us. Early in the year Dr. J. W. Draper, of New York, was removed, and within the year his son, Professor Henry Draper, followed him. Alphonse Poitevin and Dr. D. van Monckhoven have also left the field in which they have laboured so long and usefully’ whilst amongst the less familiar names we miss are Messrs. J. F. Fitzgibbon, of St. Louis, Thos. Millard, T.H. Wainwright, R. Biggs, and R. Hills.