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British Journal of Photography Almanac Annual Summary of Photographic Inventions and Events in Photographic History/1890

From George Eastman House : Notes On Photographs

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Edited by J. Traill Taylor

The great increase in the number of Photographic Societies in every country, but especially in this one, demands notice of one of the features of the year. It is, perhaps, in the area comprising the Metropolis and its Suburbs, in which there are nearly twenty societies or clubs, that this is most noticeable. While this is, undoubtedly, a healthy sign, it is open to question whether, in some cases in which the places of meeting are not far apart, increased efficiency would not result by amalgamation. The numerical strength of a society does not by any means represent its effective strength, and even conflicting opinions, when wisely expressed, are better than dull consentaneousness.

This year will be noted as the one in which film photography has made itself recognised in spite of difficulties which protrude to arrest the career of every novelty-not that film photography is in itself a novelty, for flexible substitutes for glass have long engaged the attention of experimentalists. Films of talc have been used more than a quarter of a century ago, while Parkesine, a substance composed of a solution of guncotton and other ingredients in wood naphtha, and not very far removed from the celluloid of the present time, was stated by the present writer, in 1865, to be capable of being largely used in photography, although its capabilities had not in those days developed themselves. By the fostering care and enterprise of John Carbutt, of Philadelphia, photography upon flexible films of celluloid has now taken its place among our every-day requirements, and more experience of its special capabilities will necessarily cause it to be in increased demand.

The direction in which cameras have been drifting seems to be that of decrease of bulk, and some most ingenious appliances tending to this end have been imported into their manufacture. Typical instruments of this class will be found described on other pages of this work devoted to such matters. But who may tell of the innumerable hand or detective cameras that have been brought into existence during the year? Seldom has a week elapsed that we have not heard of the invention of some camera of this class which is destined, of course, to supersede all others; many of these, however, are highly effective.

A new developer, Eikonogen, has been introduced. The special claim made for it is its ability to develop into full printing density a plate that has been impressed by feeble radiations. It has as yet been before the public for too brief a period to enable much definitely to be said about it; but it is winning some golden opinions.

In silver printing the employment of the salts of platinum as a toning agent is receiving some share of public attention. While the platinous salts thus employed act rapidly and give fine black tones, they do not as yet impart to the print a degree of permanence much exceeding that obtained with gold, while it is not for a moment pretended that a platinum-toned silver print can vie, as regards this quality, with one produced by the regular platinum process, which has now arrived at a state of great perfection. It only needs a glance at the best pictures on the walls of our exhibitions to find that ‘platinum tones’ have now in a very large measure superseded those so long associated with silver prints. Bromide of silver printing, especially for enlarged portraits, is also in popular demand.

The exhibition of transparencies by the optical lantern is now a recognised feature at the meetings of almost every photographic society, and there has arisen in consequence a healthy competition in the manufacture of plates specially prepared for this purpose, while several improvements have taken place in the construction of the lantern itself.

Mr. M. Carey Lea has, during the year, published some more of his invaluable researches in the less-known silver salts.

Lenses stand in pretty much the same state as they did last year, although the new Jena optical glass is becoming, at least partially so, employed in their construction, with a marked advantage in their power of covering a considerable field with a larger aperture than heretofore.

Several men known in the photographic world have been removed by death. Amongst these are Mr. Edward Anthony, the founder of the large New York house of Anthony & Co.; Mr. J. R. Sawyer, long the technical head of the Autotype Company; Mr. William Gillard, of Gloucester, a professional photographer; Mr. John Williams, F.C.S., of Hopkins and Williams; Mr. Warren de la Rue, who bestowed some attention upon sidereal photography; M. Boissonnas, of Geneva; Dr. Maurice Miller, of New York; Professor Delamotte, of King’s College; Mr. Frederick Hudson, of Ventnor, I.W.; Mr. Richard Brown, of Liverpool; and Mr. D. Winstanley, formerly of Manchester.