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British Journal of Photography Almanac Annual Summary of Photographic Inventions and Events in Photographic History/1897

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Edited by Thomas Bedding, F.R.P.S.

The year just terminating has not been unfruitful in photographic progress, and, on the whole, it has perhaps been not an altogether unsatisfactory one to professional photographers, manufacturers, dealers, and the like generally. There is reason to suppose that the industrial applications of photography have an expansive tendency, and that the number of those who take it up as a leisure occupation is not diminishing. We many therefore assume that in its commercial aspects the immediate future of photography is assured of prosperity. But of necessity that has been achieved in those directions during the year it is mainly the function of this brief summary to draw attention.


In January last Professor Röntgen, of Wurzburg, published a paper detailing the results of some experiments with electrically excited radiant matter tubes in a state of high vacuum, and the world was astonished to learn that solid substances were penetrable by the rays proceeding from those tubes, and that ‘photographs’ could be taken through ‘opaque’ bodies. Röntgen’s experiments were immediately repeated and verified, with what results is now generally known. The phenomena of radiography are perhaps of more direct interest to physicists and medial men than to photographers; the physicists have still to decide precisely what the rays are, and the medical men find them of extreme service in the diagnosis of disease. Since the publication of Röntgen’s paper (which will be found printed in the ‘Epitome of Progress’ at the end of the volume), some minor improvements have been effected in the tubes employed, so enabling sharper results and shorter exposures to be achieved; but, with that exception, as is remarked by a writer elsewhere, radiography is virtually where Röntgen left it in his paper, which also contains the suggestion of the fluorescent screen, that is found so useful for visual shadowgraphy.


As we predicted last year would be the case, this new illuminant is gradually forcing its way into public favour. Some photographers have already adopted it for projection and portrait work with satisfactory results. The manner of utilising the gas is dealt with in some extracts from the writings of trustworthy authorities that are given in the ‘Epitome of Progress’ and to which the reader is referred.

So far, experience has shown that, used as generated, and in the apparatus commercially designed and sold for the purpose, there is no attendant danger in the employment of acetylene. As much, however, cannot be said for the gas when it is compressed in cylinders, and it is with regret we have read of two fatal accidents occurring through its use. Detailed particulars of the caused of those accidents are, unfortunately, not available for investigation. Once result of them, however, has been to induce the insurance companies to look upon the acetylene light as dangerous, so that some offices decline to grant policies on the use of acetylene for photographic purposes, and it is strongly to be hoped that the companies may have every reason to modify the conditions.

Animated Photography

What is called, for want of a better term, animated photography, leapt into public notice early in the year, and as a source of entertainment has been noteworthy. The rapid talking of successive views of moving objects on continuous sensitive bands, and the projection, by similar means, of the positives on to the lantern screen is not by any means new in principle, but it remained for Mr. Acres, Messrs. Lumière, and others, to give practical effect to the system. The apparatus originally employed by these gentlemen is briefly described in the ‘Epitome of Progress.’ Mechanical and other obstacles have been in the way of a general extension of animated photography during the past season; but with the imminence of special cameras, lanterns, and films, effective in use and reasonable price, it is safe to predict that this interesting branch of work will receive a great fillip during the coming year.

General Photography

Very little change has to be recorded with regard to photographic processes during the past year. Colour photography has made practically no advance, although the application of the three-colour process to ordinary camera work is likely to be soon heard of. As regards surface printing processes, photographers appear to have not changed their predictions. The newer lenses, however, appear to be coming into greater use. Film photography has engaged some amount of attention, and it is probable that efforts will be followed up to provide a substitute for glass other than celluloid with the requirements of those photographers with whom absence of weight is a desideratum.

The Photographic Copyright Union

This useful Society has pursued its mission of defending photographic copyright, and there can be no doubt that, on the whole, its work has reacted to the benefit of the general body of photographers. It is due to the Photographic Copyright Union that the illustrated press has at last realised that copyright photographs may not with impunity be pirated in the wholesale manner that was once notorious; that a minimum fee for reproduction has been agreed upon by a large number of photographers; and that the rights of photographers in their copyright photographs are as real and as worth defending as the rights of authors, painters, and others.

We have supported the Union throughout its career, and our opinion that all photographers should join it is as firm as heretofore. In the Section of the ALMANAC devoted to Photographic Societies will be found (1) The Copyright Act; and (2) The Forms, Rules, &c., of the Copyright Union. Professional photographers may possibly find this information of service to them.

Photographic Societies, &c.

A reference to the ‘Directory of Photographic Societies’ will show that the number of these bodies is still on the increase.-The Convention meeting at Leeds was very successful, and some of the funds in hand are, it is satisfactory to note, being applied to the assistance of original research work in photography. The meeting in 1897 is to be held at Great Yarmouth.-The Royal Photographic Society continues to add to its members, and there is no doubt that its Charter and Fellowship scheme have resulted materially to its advantage, and in future years may have important influence in the photographic world.

Obituary of the Year

Since the publication of the last ALMANAC death has dealt less heavily with the photographic world than in some preceding years; but on November 8, last year, and while the ALMANAC, of which he had so long been editor, was passing through the press, our honoured predecessor, Mr. J. Traill Taylor, passed away in America. A full Biography was given of the deceased gentleman in THE BRITISH JOURNAL OF PHOTOGRAPHY on November 15, 1895, and many of his friends have since subscribed to a fund for the purpose of providing a memorial of him, which is to take the form of an annual lecture on a photographic subject.

Other losses during the year were Mr. Thomas Samuels (March 1), known for his invention applied to hand cameras; Rev. H. J. Palmer (March), a once well-known worker in the North of England, and formerly President of the Liverpool Amateur Photographic Association; Mr. Wm. England (August 11), whose photographic work began in the Daguerreotype days, and who was subsequently noted for his fine Swiss photographs, early instantaneous views, &c.; Dr. P. E. Liesegang; Colonel Lloyd Jackson (long in business at Fishguard as a photographer); Mr. Thomas Keig (a professional photographer, who died while Mayor of Douglas, Isle of Man); Mr. A.J. Melhuish; Mr. Alexander Johnston, of Wick (June 21), &c.