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British Journal of Photography Almanac Annual Summary of Photographic Inventions and Events in Photographic History/1889

From George Eastman House : Notes On Photographs

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Edited by J. Traill Taylor

While we are not able to chronicle any special advance in portraiture, do we hail with pleasure the gradual merging of the brown and purple tones which have so long held sway into that of a darker and more engraving-like type. It is evident that the public is being educated into this tone of portraiture, and also into dimensions considerably exceeding those previously employed. The facilities now afforded for both taking large direct pictures and also for producing enlargements warrant still further progress in this direction.

Lying dormant since 1865, flash-light photography has this year made astonishing advances. The low price at which magnesium is now attainable has given an impetus to its employment in connexion with quickly-flashing pyrotechnic compounds, and numerous portraits of a really high class have been and are being taken by its agency. But not alone in connexion with other compounds, for it is now well-recognised means of lighting when the magnesium powder pure and simple is projected through the flame of a gas or spirit lamp flame. This, for winter-evening photography, opens up a field in domestic portraiture which, it is safe to predict, will not remain long untilled.

But rapid photography at night is far more than matched by equal rapidity by day. It is almost spalling to contemplate the number of so-called detective cameras which have been ushered into existence during the year, and still more are announced as coming. In these, some receive their impressions on flexible films, others on plates, and in either case the mechanism for presenting fresh surfaces to the lens is being reduced to a state of the greatest simplicity. Even assuming, which we do not admit, that cameras of the nature just spoken of partake somewhat of the character of toys, they are invaluable as affording records of transitory scenes which under no other circumstances and by no other appliances could be secured.

But in the more imposing class of cameras the healthy competition that exists has proved the means of a wonderful degree of mechanical ingenuity being laid under contribution in their construction; and while it is unsafe to predict, yet will the recorder of future advances in the realm of camera-dom probably find it hard to beat the record of 1888.

New societies are springing up in every direction, and this is a most healthy sign, indicating as it does in rapid permeation of our art-science among the masses, and their associating together for mutual improvement.

In printing, one of the leading features of the year has been in introduction, by Captain Pizzighelli, of a method of platinum printing in which the picture acquires its full degree of blackness while still in frame exposed to light, thus doing away with subsequent development. This system may be considered as only yet upon its trial.

Not so, however, a new method of preparing paper and developing platinum prints introduced by Mr. Willis. This, which facilitates the production of proofs in platinum, will probably supersede other systems which depend upon the reduction of this metal. It is described in detail on another page.

Since the publication of our article on “Stereoscopic Photography” in the ALMANAC for 1887, the stereoscope looks as if it were to have another boom. Dormant for a long time previously, numerous articles and communications to Societies have since appeared which give evidence of a lively interest being revived in this charming department of our art.

In optics, while in the mere purely mechanical features of lenses much has been done, such as the more general adoption of the Iris diaphragm system and in that of the Casket system, or the application of several lenses to one mount, advances of a more scientific nature have also been made, e.g., the rectilinear landscape lens of Dallmeyer, a triple ‘ single’ lens by Wray, and a compound objective by Miethe, in which the great capabilities of the new Jena glass are utilised.

Death has, although lightly, placed his finger upon the photographic ranks this year. Norman Macbeth, a well-known artist, who in the evening of life had devoted much of his time to disseminate art principles to photographers, was suddenly removed in the early spring of the year. Marcus A. Root, of Philadelphia, at once a cultured artist, a clever writer, and a photographer of the very earliest times, was removed at a good old age. F. W. Donkin, the secretary of the Photographic Society of Great Britain, during the autumn when with another on a semi-photographic trip to the Caucasian mountains and perished in a snowstorm or fell down a crevasse, this being cut off in the midst of his usefulness.

Joseph Zentmayer, optician, of Philadelphia, who died in spring, bore a high reputation as a skilled member of his profession, but this as more in the microscopic than in the photographic direction. It was in 1866 that Mr. Zentmayer introduced a photographic objective known by his name, which includes a very large angle of view. It is a doublet composed of two single crown glass lenses, and of an unusually deep meniscus form.