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British Journal of Photography Almanac Annual Summary of Photographic Inventions and Events in Photographic History/1922

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Edited by George E. Brown, F.I.C

AMONG those whose deaths have taken place since the publication of the 1921 ALMANAC are: -
John B. Maclachlan (Oct. 19, 1920) John R. Griffin (Feb. 9, 1921)
John McIntosh (Nov. 16, 1920) A.H. Lisett (Mar. 4, 1921)
Charles R. Rowe (Nov. 19, 1920) W. Friese-Greene (May 5, 1921)
W. H. Rau (Nov. 19, 1920) S. H. Fry (July 9, 1921)
Sir Wm. Abney (Dec. 2, 1920) Gabriel Lippmann (July 14, 1921)

The sudden death of Mr. John B. MacLachlan, Blairgowrie, removed one of the prominent figures in Scottish photography. Devoid of all parochialism, it was owing to his efforts that the Scottish Photographic Federation was formed in 1903, rather than a merely local union or affiliation. Mr. MacLachlan was appointed secretary of the Federation from its inception, and discharged that office until February 1914, when pressure of business duties compelled him to resign. He was then elected vice-president, and in the following year president, a position he held during the trying war period, and only retired from it at the beginning of 1920. Of a genial and tactful disposition, combined with a keen sense of humour, he did much to weld together the scattered societies included in the Scottish Photographic Federation. As the result of his labours, Mr. MacLachlan had the satisfaction of seeing the Federation affairs placed on the roll of membership. “Mac” as he was always called in Federation circles, was a saddler by profession, but latterly editor and proprietor of the “Alyth Guardian.” His capabilities as an organizer will be missed in the Federation of which he was largely the founder, and Scottish photographic circles will be greatly the poorer by the loss of his outstanding personality.


Mr. J. McIntosh was perhaps best known as the Secretary of the Royal Photographic Society but for many years he had been closely associated with photography in several capacities. For several years he acted as assistant editor to “Photography”, a position which he relinquished in order to become the secretary of the Royal Photographic Society.

As an amateur in photographic work, Mr. McIntosh took particular interest in orthochromatic photography and in the technique of processes of intensification and reduction, papers by him on which subjects will be found in the photographic Press during the past ten of fifteen years. He was also as early and enthusiastic worker of the Autochrome process, to the technique of which in its earliest days he made some contributions. His leisure left him little time for writing, although he had an aptitude for discoursing plainly on technical subjects. He was, however, a fairly regular contributor of articles on photography to the “Bazaar” and some years ago wrote a text book, “Photography with Roll Films,” published by Messrs. Butcher. He also edited a collection of hints, abstracts, and formulae issued as the “Photographic Reference Book,” but perhaps the chief contribution made by him to the literature of photography was his share in the revision and arrangement of Sir William Abney’s “Instruction in Photography,” as the author very cordially acknowledged in the latest edition of this work.


Mr. Charles Rowe, at one time assistant to Mr. Henry Sturmey, when the latter was editor of “Photography,” died at Saltash at the age of 73. Mr. Rowe was for a number of years practically the acting editor of our contemporary in the early years of its existence. On vacating this position he returned to his native Devon, and occupied himself in topographical literary work, chiefly connected with the West of England. He was the author of several guide books of Devon and Cornwall, and did a considerable amount of work in the way of writing and lecturing for the Great Western Railway Company.


Mr. William H. Rau, of Philadelphia, was one of the most prominent of American photographers, and an early and successful pioneer in the business of commercial photography. Of Swiss parentage, he was born in Philadelphia in 1855. As a young man he had an eventful life of travel, for at 19 he formed one of the photographic staff engaged for the United States Transit of Venus expedition, an appointment which led him round the world and into some exciting adventures. A few years later, in company with the late Edward L. Wilson, Mr. Rau mad a photographic tour through Egypt, Palestine, and Arabia, returning with a large series of photographs of tombs and monuments which had never previously been recorded. It was in the course of this expedition that Mr. Rau showed his enterprise by taking up the use of the gelatine dry plate, which at that time among photographers in Europe was with difficulty proving its merits in competition with the wet-collodion process. In 1885, not long after his return to America, Mr. Rau established himself in his native town as a technical and commercial photographer, and in this specialized work achieved very great success, becoming official photographer to several of the great exhibitions in the United States, and undertaking a great deal of work for the American railway companies.


Sir William Abney has contributed for so many years, and in so many ways, to the investigation of the technical processes of photography that no brief notice of his work can adequately represent its scope and extent. The very diversity of his labours is a cause of embarrassment to a reviewer of them, for he concerned himself as much with the improvement of photographic methods on empirical lines as with the investigation of the scientific principles of photography. As a result, his contributions are scattered through a wider field of periodicals than are those, probably, of any other photographic experimenter. Many of his papers are to be found only in the Proceedings of the Royal Society; many others are distributed in the Journal of the Royal Photographic Society, in the “Photographic News” in the “British Journal of Photography” and its “Almanac” and in “Photography,” to which latter journal he was for some years a regular contributor of editorial articles.

Sir William Abney became a lieutenant in the Royal Engineers in 1861 and captain in 1873, subsequent to which he was for some year instructor in chemistry to the Royal Engineers at Chatham. H retired form the Army in 1881, and in 1884 was appointed assistant director for science in the Science and Art Department of South Kensington, becoming a director in 1893 and assistant secretary in 1899.

In photography his name will take its place as that of almost the only scientific man of the last century who continuously occupied himself with the study and improvement of photographic technics. From his earliest years as a young lieutenant he took a very great interest in practical photographic work. A notable instance of this is his application of the fact, observed by J. R. Johnson, that the action of light has ceased. Lieutenant Abney, as he then was, was quick to show the usefulness of this observation in reducing the time of exposure in making carbon prints. But his chief contributions to photographic practice came with the introduction of the emulsion processes. He was prominent in the advancement of emulsion making, and is particularly noted in this field for his investigations of emulsions sensitive to infra-red, and his invention of the gelatino-citro-chloride, or print-out emulsion, which subsequently, when introduced as P.O.P by the Ilford Company, revolutionized photographic printing in this country. He also was the first to introduce hydroquinone as a developer of bromide emulsions.

But Sir William Abney’s most notable experimental work related to spectro-photography, colour, and colour vision. In 1883 he was awarded the Rumford medal of the Royal Society for his researches on spectrum analysis. So far as the development of scientific methods of photographic investigations is concerned, his interest would seem to have diminished rather than have been stimulated by the appearance of the paper by Hurter and Driffield in 1891. His attitude towards the new doctrine then enunciated was one largely of opposition on the ground of distrust of the experimental data which Hurter and Driffield had obtained with a photometer of the grease-spot type. A lively discussion ensued, in which Dr. Hurter, who was three months the junior of Captain Abney, showed himself the more agile and explicit controversialist. The dispute on experimental methods is now ancient history, which those who are interested can re-traverse in full in the collected researches of Hurter and Driffield, published by the Royal Photographic Society, under the editorship of Mr. W. B. Ferguson. But Sir William Abney appears not to have perceived the potential fruitfulness of the ideas which were first put forward by Hurter and Driffield; and in subsequent editions of his “Instruction in Photography” the work of Hurter and Driffield is scarcely appraised at the value which later experiments have attached to it.

Nevertheless, by general consent, Sir William Abney’s books on photography are the most valuable of those in the English language. His “Instruction in Photography,” first published in 1871, has passed through eleven editions; his “Treatise of Photography,” issued as one of Messrs. Longman’s Text Books of Science in 1878, has likewise appeared in a large number of editions, “Photography and Emulsions,” long out of print, was the only work which adequately dealt with the making of dry-plate emulsions. He was also the author of a text book on the Platinotype process, and, in collaboration with H. P. Robinson, of one on silver printing. Although not a facile expositor of scientific matters, he wrote a popular work on “Colour Measurement and Mixture,” published in 1891 by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Sir William Abney was elected a member of the Royal Photographic Society in 1870, and admitted a Fellow in 1895. He was the president of the Society for three periods, namely, form 1892 to 1894, in 1896 and during the years 1903 and 1905. At the time of his death he was 77 years of age.


Mr. S. H. Fry was for many years well known as the founder and proprietor of the firm of enlargers which bears his name, and, until a few months before his death, secretary of the Professional Photographers’ Association.

It was only in the early part of 1921 that Mr. Fry withdrew from taking an active share in his business, leaving the management of this undertaking to his son, and at the same time resigned his position as secretary of the P.P.A. He had taken up his residence at Ripley, in Surrey, in the reasonable expectation of enjoying some years of retirement and leisure. Fate decreed otherwise, and his death, indeed, took place under particularly pathetic circumstances. Mr. Fry and his wife only the day before had entered upon the tenancy of a house in the village of Dunsfold, near Godalming. In the small hours of the next morning some cows strayed into the garden. Mr. Fry dressed himself and went down to drive them off. A few minutes later Mrs. Fry found that he had been taken seriously ill, and he died before a doctor could be brought. At an inquest it was started that death was due to heart failure, and a verdict of death from natural causes was returned.

Mr. Fry was the son of Samuel Fry, formerly a photographer of Kinston-on-Thames, who in the early days of the gelatine emulsion process commenced the manufacture of dry-plates which were of a greater rapidity than those then on the market, due to Bennett, a well-known amateur experimenter. These plates were placed upon the market as the “Kingston,” and for some years occupied a leading place among similar products, as did also other manufactures of the firm, such as bromide paper. It thus came about that Mr. Fry, in his early days, acquired a practical knowledge of emulsion making and subsequently of the making of enlargements whilst employed in his father’s business. Following engagements with one or two firms of photographic manufactures, he established the business of trade enlarging, which has steadily grown in importance. He was one of the first to embark in the business of developing and printing amateurs’ film exposures, at a time when few commercial firms perceived the large amount of profit to be won from this branch of work.


In photography M. Lippmann was known chiefly in connection wit the process of colour photography which bears his name, although this latter is a small part of his many contributions to experimental physics, in particular, electricity. He was born in Luxemburg in 1845, of French parents, and after a distinguished career in classics, philosophy, mathematics, and physics at the Ecole Normale, became a student in Heidelberg University, under Kuhne and Kirchoff. Returning to France, Lippmann, who had now chosen electricity as his subject, continued his researches at the Sorbonne, under Jamin, and a few years later was appointed director of research in physics at the Sorbonne. The rest of his life was spent in scientific research, of which he was one of the pioneers in France, and witnessed the carrying out of numerous investigations in heat, electricity, and other branches of physics.

His process of colour photography was, so to speak, the offspring of his theory and practical experiment. In 1886, whilst teaching optics at the Sorbonne, he conceived the idea of demonstrating the formation of “stationary” or “standing” waves of light, that is waves which have “interfered” by reflection back on to the original path, by making records of colours. Some years passed before he succeeded in preparing the grainless transparent emulsion required for this process, but in 1891 M. Lippmann make known his discovery, which aroused an extraordinary degree of interest. Scientific men admired it as a most exquisite physical demonstration; photographers, somewhat precipitately, saw init the basis of an ideally simple process of colour photography. Time has shown that the view of the former was the more correct, for, despite the labours of many photographic investigators, the making of a Lippmann color photograph remains more an optical experiment than a working process of colour photography. The special emulsion required for it was improved by M. M. Lumière and others, including Mr. Edgar Senior in England, and so far as the photographic technique is concerned, Mr. Senior’s methods, published in the Manual of Colour Photography by Bolas, Tallent, and Senior, have done all that is possible to bring the process within the capacity of photographers. The characteristic qualities of the results have, however, prevented it form becoming popular.


Mr. John Ross Griffin, director of Messrs. John J. Griffin & Sons, Ltd. Had been connected with the business which bears his name for practically the whole of his life, and was the grandson of the founder of the firm John Joseph Griffin. Though, perhaps, owning to his somewhat retiring disposition, he was less well-known in the photographic trade than many other members of it, he had always taken a close and active interest in the management of the business, both the photographic side of it and that connected with the supply of scientific instruments and materials. As the representative of the firm he was a member of the Council of the British Research Association, and on other committees relating to the photographic industry took a deep interest in matters affecting the welfare of the trade as a whole. By those who knew him, Mr. Griffin was greatly esteemed for his sound judgment and pleasant disposition. At the time of his death he was fifty-eight.


Mr. A. H. Lisett was honorary treasurer of the Royal Photographic Society and an active member of its Council. In company with his daughter, he left England in November 1920, on a business trip to South Africa, and died at Port Elizabeth on March 14, 1921. In addition to taking the large share in the management of the R.P.S., he had been for many years an active member of the North Middlesex Photographic Society, and was known for his lectures before these and other societies on popular photographic subjects.


Mr. W. Friese-Green, well known within the circles of photography, if not by the general public, as the inventor and maker of the first practical cinematographic camera, died very suddenly. He was present at a meeting of a film-exhibiting trade association, at which Lord Beaverbrook occupied the chair. He had risen to make a short speech, was taken suddenly ill, and expired within five minutes. He was in his 66th year.

There is no question that Friese-Greene was the pioneer of the creation of cinematography. The work of Muybridge, Marey, and others, which immediately preceded his invention, had for its object the recording of phases of movement. Various complicated cameras, usually fitted with a whole series of lenses, were designed for that purpose. The conception of means for the reproduction of movement, as perceived by the eye, was perhaps not original with Friese-Greene, but he certainly was the first man to make a camera which achieved this object. His patent specification, filed on June 21, 1889, in conjunction with an engineer named Evans, described the first practical instrument for taking photographs on an intermittently moved flexible sensitive material. This camera was shown at the Bath Photographic Society early in 1890 and was exhibited by Mr. Friese-Greene at the Chester meeting of the Photographic Convention in July of the same year. It there attracted very little attention, for the contemporary reports described it simply as a camera, for taking a series of photographs in rapid succession. Apparently the projector by which positives from the band negative were to be shown on the screen, and which Friese-Greene had already constructed during the earliest part of 1890, could not be used, on account of some derangement suffered in course of conveyance to Chester. The reproduction of the movement recorded by the camera, could it have been shown, would no doubt have demonstrated to members of the Convention the importance of the discovery. But already there were other inventors at work on the same problem: Edison in America, who was the practical introducer of perforated film: in France, MM Lumière, the inventor of the first efficient projecting machine, and Brit Acres, who was close on the heels of the French experimenters. A few years later it only remained for an imaginative Frenchman, M. Pathé, to conceive the idea of arranging the acting of stories to be transferred to the cinematograph film.

The technical work of Friese-Greene and those who followed him had then been done with sufficient completeness to allow of the cinematograph entering upon the enormous industrial development in the field of popular entertainment which the past few years have witnessed.

In a world of ideal justice, Friese-Greene should have made a handsome fortune; instead of which he died in poverty. Although we knew him well, and occasionally visited his workshops first at Chelsea and afterwards at Brighton, we knew little of the work which occupied him, except that it seemed to be connected with some fresh invention. Although he was an ingenious mechanician he had, so we judge, the very slightest acquaintance with the scientific elements of chemistry and physics. He impressed one as a child at play in a wonderful garden, made happy by discovering something fresh and incurable optimistic that some day and somehow or other fortune would fall into his lap. When it continuously failed to fall, a strain of oriental fatalism in the character preserved his cheerfulness; he forgot the disappointment and looked again to the future.

Apart from cinematography pure and simple his name is associated with early work in the production of stereoscopic cinematograph effects by means of viewing instruments fitted with filters of complementary colours. He was constantly engaged on experimental work in color photography and color cinematography, but as he scarcely ever wrote anything on the subject, his labours can only be judged by the details published in patent specifications. One invention of his, which we believe was one of the most unfortunate from the financial standpoint, was that of inkless printing. It was proposed to impregnate printing paper with certain salts, which were decomposed by contact with metal type forming part of an electrical circuit. The decomposition products thus formed the impression on, or rather in, the paper.

AMONG others who have been removed by death during the preceding twelve months are: -Mr. John Thomson, veteran traveler and portrait photographer; Mr. Peter Cooper Hewitt, inventor of the mercury-vapour lamp; Mr. C. Brangwyn Barnes; M. Maurice Bucquet, a great promoter of pictorial photography in France; Ludwig Hammer, maker of dry-plates in America; Fayette J. Clutê, editor and proprietor of “Camera Craft” (California); Dr. E. J. Spitta, an authority on photo-micrography, and Rev. J. B. MacKenzie, a pioneer in amateur photography, who died at 88.