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British Journal of Photography Almanac Annual Summary of Photographic Inventions and Events in Photographic History/1891

From George Eastman House : Notes On Photographs

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Edited by J. Traill Taylor

HISTORY is once more repeating itself. The old idea respecting the imparting of artistic merit, so called, to photographs by the suppression of definition, which was so ably and exhaustively discussed in London Societies and elsewhere thirty years since, has lately again been brought prominently to the front. It will probably remain there for a brief period, and then be relegated to forgetfulness, as in a previous age.

The present year has seen great advances made in the optics of the art. Certain Continental opticians, having realised the value of the new Jena optical glass, have taken advantage of its wonderful properties to construct lenses which, with a comparatively large aperture, include an angle of view much greater than has formerly been obtained, and this with a singular degree of perfection as regards definition, flatness of field, and freedom from astigmatisms; and English opticians, too, are awakening to an appreciation of one of the wants of the time implied in the foregoing remark. Some account of progress made in this direction will be found in the Epitome towards the close of this volume.

Photography in natural colours has had a brief sensation, more especially on the Continent. But it has turned out to be, so far as one can be ascertained, nothing else than what is known to every reader of THE BRITISH JOURNAL OF PHOTOGRAPHY of an earlier period, and of which much appeared in a former volume of this ALMANAC.

It is to be regretted that in the matter of the adoption of a uniform system of screws for lens flanges so many opticians yet remain each “a law unto himself.” There are, however, indications that uniformity will eventually prevail.

The discovery by Colonel Waterhouse of the property of the thiocarbamides in reversing the image is one which is likely to lead to important results. It unfortunately comes too late in the year to enable much, if anything, to be said concerning it from personal experience. In the meantime it is not too much to say that it is the most important discovery of the year.

The application of Primuline as a photographic agent by Messrs. Green, Cross & Bevan is at any rate a novelty the precise value of which cannot at present be easily estimated. This doubtless will have been ascertained before the advent of another year. Meantime another printing process, known as Kallitype, has been introduced into practical working, its results being very pleasing. It is, in some respects analogous to platinum printing, but sufficiently distinct from it and all others to entitle it to be designated a new process of printing. The image, however, is silver, and not platinum, and is of a pleasing dark colour. No hyposulphite of soda is employed, and thus it is free from the presence of at least one powerful enemy to the stability of the image. The process may be summarized thus; -Suitable paper is washed with a solution of neutral ferric oxalate, and when dry will keep indefinitely ready for use. It is printed until the details show feebly, and developed by floating upon a solution containing nitrate of silver, citrate of soda, and a trace of bichromate of potash. It is fixed in water containing a modicum of ammonia and citrate of soda.

The numbers of Societies and Clubs devoted to photography in all parts of the world have very greatly increased during the year, and are ever increasing, and an incentive to individual excellence is given by the exhibitions held by nearly all of them.

The death roll has this year been unusually heavy, and includes the names of some who have for many years been valued contributors to this ANNUAL. In the following sad record, I give the dates of death where I know them. Rev. S. J. Perry, F.R.S. (December 27, 1889), and ardent astronomer and an accomplished man. E. V. Boissonnas, of Geneva, who, shortly before his death (January 25), passed through London en route for America. Godefroi V. J. Poirin (April 18), to whose inventive genius the last and antecedent ALMANACS testify. Colonel Stuart Wortley (April 30), than whose name a few years ago none was better known. W. A. Geddes (May 23), the founder of the Arbroath firm of that name. Robert Faulkner, who acquired fame in connexion with the portraits of children. Herbert B. Berkeley (May 26), to whom photographers owe their knowledge of the properties of sulphurous acid in the developer, and long connected with the Platinotype Company. Rev. F. Hardwich (June 24), at one time Professor of Photography in King’s College, London, the author of a standard work on photographic chemistry, and a voluminous writer. Baynham Jones, of Cheltenham, one who long antedated the birth of photography, a veritable veteran. J. Solomon (September 2), long of Red Lion Square, and the earliest photographic merchant in this country. M. Wallery (Count Ostrarog), who, after establishing imposing portrait galleries in Paris and elsewhere, opened one on a palatial scale in Regent Street, London. Samuel Fry (September 28), for many years a professional portrait photographer, and more recently well known as a dry plate manufacturer.

The foreign death list includes the name of M. Michaud, the inventor of some important photo-engraving process; M. Peligot, President of the French Photographic Society; H. Goltzsch; Martin Dienstbach; and others less known to the public.