log in helplinksabout



Print Room




British Journal of Photography Almanac Annual Summary of Photographic Inventions and Events in Photographic History/1899

From George Eastman House : Notes On Photographs

Jump to: navigation, search

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

A brief survey of the present position of photography may well be regarded as a kind of annual stocktaking, and to take the apparent evidence as a guide the result must be considered favourable. In its industrial aspects there are no indications of retrogression; on the contrary, the growth of business, judged by manufacturers’ reports, is ‘sure but steady,’ and the signs of decline in any one branch are hard to detect. In the indispensability of photography to all the arts and sciences lies its greatest hop of continued advancement.

In the months of April and May last an International Photographic Exhibition, organized by the Royal Photographic Society, was held at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham, S.E. The Exhibition, which was inaugurated by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, remained open for three weeks, and was visited by about 75,000 persons. It was undoubtedly the largest and most representative Exhibition yet held in connexion with photography-the various sections, including the artistic, the technical, the scientific, and the historical, being well supported whilst manufacturers and other more immediately concerned in the commercial aspects of photography bestowed a liberal measure of patronage on the Exhibition, which completely showed what photography had done in the past, and was capable of achieving in the present. The experiment was so popular and successful that we have little hesitation in saying that, if held every few years in London, such an exhibition-smaller, of course, but conducted on similar lines-would be much appreciated by photographers and others.

During the year there have been three or four additions to the already long list of developing compounds at the service of the photographer-ortol, diphenal, diogen, acetone instead of alkali, &c., while persulphate of ammonia had attracted some attention as a reducer. With regard to the new developers, it is at present doubtful what position they are entitled to hold on the score of practical use. The whole subject of photographic developers and development is more or less dominated by sheer empiricism, and it is much to be regretted that we do not possess in this country some institution analogous to the photographic establishments in Berlin and Vienna, presided over by men of the stamp of Vogel and Eder, of whom, when new chemicals for photographic purposes are introduced, and authoritative and reliable statement of the distinguishing characteristics of those compounds could be obtained. It is true that, when new developers and cognate chemical mixtures are placed in the hands of English photographers, we are not long lacking in the stated results of practical experiments made with the reagents, but the number and the variety of these experiences soon become bewildering and contradictory, with an utter absence of confirmation and of a scientific method of going to work in the experiments undertaken.

All the signs point to the continued spread of amateur photography among the public, and the number of photographic societies is on the increase. If these bodies could be induced to join together for the purposes of financially assisting in the foundation of a National Photographic Laboratory (to be administered, for instance, by the Royal Photographic Society), such as is suggested in the previous paragraph, a new sphere of usefulness of incalculable benefit to photography at large would be opened up before them. They can scarcely be said, at present, to avail themselves to the utmost of their opportunities. As regards professional photography it is difficult to give an accurate idea of its position and condition, but on the whole possibly it has entered the stage of gradual improvement. Year by year we witness the accession of men of very high cultivation to the professional ranks, and there is no doubt that gradually the public is being educated up to the requiring a class of portraiture which demands the very highest skill to produce, and it may therefore reasonably be supposed that in the raising of the standard of professional portraiture may be found the salvation of portrait photography.

The Hand Camera has made great headway in general use during eh past year, and it is surprising to note that, aside from its utility in affording hundreds of thousands of people a ready means of indulging in photography as a pastime, how very serviceable it has become for more serious proposes. As an adjunct to press work it has become indispensable.

A slight reaction in favour of lenses having curvature of field manifested itself during the year, it being pointed out that for subjects presenting a concave field to the camera, street views, interiors, and so forth, this form of objective has uses which forbid its entire displacement by the flat fielded lenses.

Practically no new contribution has been made to the study of the problem of natural-colour photography, although the subject is constantly cropping up in the general press, wherein claims are only too often published which crumble away before expert examination and analysis. The article which follows this brief summary is devoted to a description of the colour photographic methods actually before the world.

Animated photography still remains its hold upon popular favour, and it is probable that ere long this attractive branch of work will be placed within the reach for all.

If we look for evidences of popular taste in photographic printing processes, we are confronted by the phenomenon that, although the presence of an albumen print in an exhibition nowadays is a great rarity, yet a vast deal of the paper is still employed by professional men. Although the process has been many times killed, albumen is still a great favourite with many, on the ground presumable that its physical advantages outweigh drawbacks in other directions. But, side by side with this phenomenon, we perceive that the other printing methods, gelatino-chloride in particular, collodio-chloride, bromide, platinum and carbon, are used in increasingly large quantities, and such being the case, we are forced to regard it as a confirmation of the remark with which we opened, viz., that photography exhibits unmistakable expansive tendencies. No sign could be more hopeful or encouraging.

Glass still holds premier position as the support for the sensitive emulsion, and this despite the fact that both rollable and cut films of increasingly good qualities are available. Indeed, it is one of the most remarkable phenomena of modern photography that a vitreous support for gelatino-bromide should so long find favour.

Representative photographic institutions during the past year showed no diminution of activity or success, such bodies as the Camera Club, the Royal Photographic Society, the Copyright Union, and the Convention finding means of extending their fields of usefulness. But it is to be regretted that, while it is not a matter of much difficulty to form an association of amateurs for the purposes of mutual help and advancement, professionals as a body make it impossible to legislate for them. Their presence in the Royal Photographic Society, of which they form a considerable percentage, is scarcely felt. There is no Benevolent Association now-in fact, no representative institution of professional photographers at all. And it must be confessed that the recent tendencies of the Royal Photographic Society’s Exhibition have operated to repel rather than to attract professional support. Still, it is probable that, in the near future, the professional element, as in former years, may find an opportunity of more forcibly asserting itself than has been the case in recent years.

The half-tone process is more in demand than ever with the illustrated press and for purposes of book illustration; and three-colour half-tone during the past year has definitely placed itself on a commercial basis, the process being largely used for numerous purposes. Before this process lies a vast future, and it is to be regretted that photographers were not earlier alive to its possibilities, as well as to those of half-tone engraving. These, with photogravure and collotype, might have been successfully undertaken by many photographers whose portrait business have shown a downward tendency.

The cheap enlargement schemes which harassed professional men a year or two ago seem to have dropped out of sight, but the free-portrait swindle, which once flourished in our midst, appears to have taken root abroad, whence it casts its offshoots into the British Isles. With the amount of publicity that has recently been given to the nature of the swindle in the English press, however, there is some hope of this blot on photography being wiped out.


Among those once prominent in photography, whom death has removed during the past year, the following may be noted:-

Mr. Henry Perigal Mr. James Abbot (Dundee)
Mr. R. Freeman Barnes Dr. Ferdinand Hurter
Mr. S. W. Rouch Rev. Locke Macdona
Mr. Latimer Clark

We are indebted to Mr. Driffeld for the following brief biography of Dr. Hurter:- ‘Dr. Hurter was born in Schaffhausen, March 15, 1844. He here received his education, up to the age of sixteen, at the State schools and apprenticed for three years to a dyer. By the time he gave such evidence of capacity and ability that it was deemed desirable that he should pursue his studies further than circumstances had hitherto permitted. With this object he went to the Polytechnic at Zurich, where he studied under Stadeler, and from thence he went to Heidelberg, where he completed his studies under Bunsen and Kirchoff, and where he took his degree of Ph.D in 1866. In 1867 he came to England, and, on the recommendation of Sir Henry Roscoe, he entered, as a chemist, the service of Messrs. Gaskell, Deacon, and Co., alkali manufactures, Widnes. His marked ability was soon appreciated, and he rapidly gained the confidence of his employers, with whom he remained till the amalgation of the works took place, when he was appointed, in 1890, head chemist to the United Alkali Company, Ltd., in which capacity he remained till his death. During his business-like life he published a large number of papers of the greatest importance bearing upon matters connected with that alkali trade, and he as closely associated with the late Mr. Henry Deacon in the practical working out of the latter’s well-known process of manufacturing bleaching powder. ‘In 1871, I also entered the service of Messrs. Gaskell, Deacon, & Co. as engineer, and from that moment a friendship commenced between Dr. Hurter and myself which ripened into a deep attachment. I had myself practiced photography for eight years prior to this, but it was not till 1867 that I enlisted Dr. Hurter’s interest in this subject. It seemed, however, to a mind like his to be intolerable to practise an art the operations involved in which were so completely governed by rule-of-thumb, and the underlying principles so little understood. We then agreed that we would together enter into a thorough investigation of the subject, and form then till the day of his death I have had the privilege of working hand in hand with one of the brightest intellects ever brought to bear upon the science of photography. The time at our disposal for these investigations had been necessarily limited, but they were stilled forever. My part has been a humble one, and whatever merit may be ultimately found in the work bearing the joint names of Dr. Hurter and myself must be mainly attributed to the great intellectual power he was able to bring to bear upon the work we undertook.’


By the death of Mr. James Abbot, Dundee, the photographic art lost one of its earliest pioneers. Born in Dundee seventy-six year ago, James Abbot was at a very early age apprenticed to the trade of mechanic, but constantly showed a marked artistic tendency, and as a boy, eagerly availed himself of every opportunity of studying works of art. Some fifty years ago, when photography was yet in its infancy, and apparatus not so easily procured, Mr. Abbot’s knowledge of the nature of optics enabled him to make a lens for the purpose of taking a sun picture. Out of the bottoms of ordinary tumblers he succeeded in making the desired instrument. This lens was exhibited at a photographic exhibition held in Dundee a few years ago, and is still in existence. From that time onwards Mr. Abbot’s enthusiasm never cooled, and he continued vigorously his researches and study of the art. In 1858 he started a business in Dundee, which he has been successfully carried on ever since. In these days a knowledge of chemistry was absolutely necessary for the expert artistic photographer; Mr. Abbot possessed this knowledge, and almost as soon as collodion was anywhere heard of he manufactured that wonderful material for himself, and continued to do so during all the years the wet process was in vogue. Along with this most intimate friend, the late Mr. Roger, of St. Andrews, Mr. Abbot made many improvmentes in the art, and about thirty years ago he discovered a new method for washing silver prints, the object of which was to render the pictures more permanent than had ever been possible before. A paper on this subject was read at one of the annual meetings of the Photographic Society of Scotland in Edinburgh, when it was highly commended.


Messrs. Rouch’s photographic business is one of the oldest engaged in the trade, having, we believe, been established over forty years ago, when wet collodion was the premier photographic process. Messrs. Rouch were the introducers of Hardwich’s collodion many years ago, and they were very early in the field of gelatine dry-plate manufacture. They have always been distinguished for the great excellence of their photographic apparatus.


He was one of the earliest photographers, and enthusiastic dry-collodion worker; in fact, his work on that subject is still the standard. He was also one of the first and most successful workers in the Daguerreotype and vitrified the enamel process. For many years chief operator to Maull & Polybank, he afterwards opened a business in New Bond-street, which he transferred to New Cross, where he had conducted a high-class business for the last thirty years, and, although seventy-five years of age, may be truly said to have died in harness. It is only a few years since we announced the death of his younger brother, Geroge Green Crawford Barnes, who was also one of the earliest photographers.


Locke Macdona was the youngest of seven brothers, all of whom were clergymen of the Church of England. His eldest brother was first a clergymen, then a barrister, and is now M.P. for Rotherhithe, with a specialty in derelict vessels. Mr. Macdona was Vicar of Cheadle Hulme, Chesire, before he went to Acton, and he had also a medical degree. He had worked at photography in various branches for many years, and was chiefly given to experimental work in chemistry and mechanics; in these directions he was quite an enthusiast.


Over forty years ago Mr. Latimer Clark devised an arrangement for taking stereoscopic photographs with one camera and lens, its chief feature being contrivance for rapidly moving the camera in a lateral direction without disturbing the position of the image upon the ground glass. We append Mr. Clark’s original description of his invention, which has been in constant use since its introduction, and has more than once been reinvented.

‘A strongly framed camera stand carries a flat table, about twenty inches wide by sixteen, furnished with the usual adjustments. Upon this are laid two flat bars of wood in the direction of the object, and parallel, and about the width of the camera asunder. They are eighteen inches in length; their front ends carry stout pins, which descend into the table and form centres upon which they can turn. Their opposite ends also carry similar pins, but these are directed upwards, and fit into two corresponding holes in the tail-board of the camera.

‘Now, when the camera is placed upon these pins and moved to and fro laterally, the whole system exactly resembles the common parallel ruler. The two bars form the guides, and the camera, although capable of free lateral motion, always maintains a parallel position. In this condition of things it is only suited to take stereoscopic pictures of an object at an infinite distance; but to make it move in an arc, converging on an object at any nearer distance, it is only necessary to make the two guide bars approximate at their nearer end so as to converge slightly towards the object; and by a few trials some degree of convergence will be readily found at which the image will remain as it were fixed on the focusing glass while the camera is moved to and fro. To admit of this adjustment, once of the pins descends through a slot in the table and carries a clamping screw, by means of which it is readily fixed in any required position.

‘In order, however, to render the motion of the camera smoother, it is advisable not to place it directly upon the two guides, but to interpose two thin slips of wood, lying across them at right angles, beneath the front and back of the camera respectively (and which may be fixed to the camera if preferred), and to dust the surfaces with powdered soap-stone or French chalk.’

It has escaped the notice that to the late Mr. Latimer Clark is due the credit of being the first to introduce the vignetting of photographs, a letter from him describing a simple apparatus for that purpose appearing in the first volume of the Photographic Society’s Journal in 1853. The deceased gentleman was the father of the well-known Mr. Lyonel Clark, C.E., to whom photography is indebted for many valuable writing and devices, most of which have been noticed in THE BRITISH JOURNAL OF PHOTOGRAPHY during the past thirteen or fourteen years.