history of photography // no. 3

While I’m waiting on the graphic designer to put the finishing touches on our latest editorial (eeeek!) I’m going to take a moment to talk about the history of photography (yay!).

the wet-plate collodion process //

In 1840’s, if you wanted your portrait to be made, you had the choice between a Daguerrotype and a Calotype, which we will talk about later. Daguerreotypes were stunningly sharp and the process was much more sensitive to light yielding a beautiful photographic likeness. The downside? There was only one, so there were no copies for family members or friends. No negative/positive funny business. However, the Calotype produced between 50 to 100 reprints from one paper negative. The downside? The final print was soft, somewhat dreamlike, and the process was not as sensitive to light which required longer exposure times. Not too good for portraits. Then, a man named Fredrick Scott Archer invented the Collodion process in 1851. It was as if he took the best of both mediums and created one single process. The Collodion, or wet-plate process, was much more sensitive to light, produced sharp photographs, and was able to be duplicated! Awesome right? Well, like everything else there is always a downside, and this process had quite a few of ’em. The photograph was made directly onto a glass plate (which became the negative) making travel kind of a pain in the butt. Imagine wanting to take ten photographs on vacation. You would have to carry ten pieces of glass! Whew! Along with the fact you had to basically be Hercules to be a photographer, the plate had to be coated, exposed, and developed on-location making it necessary to have a portable darkroom with you at all times (or a photographic van / see no.1 below). And chemistry. And a ton of glass. The photographs though? Gorgeous prints that could be duplicated! Take  a look >>

photographic van, julia margaret cameron, carleton watkins the three brother, sally mann daughter, wet plate, good exposure, valerie petralia, history of photography

// 1. a photographic van used for making wet-plate photos on-the-go // 2. I Wait, 1872 Julia Margaret Cameron // 3. The Three Brothers, after 1860 Carleton E. Watkins // 4. Part of the “Family Pictures” series by Sally Mann, 1984-1991

links for more information on collodion photography //
video // how-to
video // history of collodion by george eastman house
article // getty.edu