175 Years Photography & Photographic Processes

Seated woman - cleaned
See Routledge Encyclopedia of 19th. Century photography


A Pictorial Terminology

Daguerreotype (1839 - 1860)
(1839 - 1860) Daguerreotype.
The Daguerreotype was the first practical & commercially available photographic process to be publicly announced.
This 'One-off' process is named after his French inventor Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre.

Daguerreotypes are regularly presented in the tradition of miniature paintings, using similar frames & etuis, resulting in a strong resemblance with painted miniature portraits, especially when they where hand-colored.

This process involved the deposit of a thin layer of pure silver onto a copper plate, which was then exposed to iodine vapour, resulting in the creation of a thin layer of light sensitive-silver iodide on the surface of the plate.

After exposure of the plate in the camera, the image was developed in fumes of mercury, which formed a white amalgam of silver and mercury on those parts of the image which had been exposed to light.

The plate was then stabilised or 'fixed' and mounted behind glass in order to protect the delicate surface from abrasion and chemical contamination.

While the daguerreotype produced an image of startling precision and often great beauty, its inherent disadvantages led to its demise in the late 1850s.

First, the image was literally a mirror image, laterally reversed, and in addition, its bright reflective surface was difficult to view in certain lights.

But the fatal drawback was the fact that every daguerreotype was a unique image: if more copies were required, it was necessary to make further exposures.
Woman in White
However, even in the post-daguerrean period, these 'jewelry like' images kept their unparalleled optical quality, sharpness and consequently, their popularity.

With thanks to Michael Gray for permission to use parts of his text.

Calotype - Talbottype (1839 - 1855)
(1839 - 1855) Calotype - Talbottype.
Talbot had made the most important of the discoveries which formed the basis of his Calotype, negative/positive photographic process: this was the developing-out of the latent or invisible image formed in the camera on a sheet of paper coated with light-sensitive silver iodide.

This developed negative was then chemically 'fixed' to remove unexposed and undeveloped silver compounds and thus stabilise the image. From this negative, positive images could be made using the salt print process.

This involved floating or submerging good quality drawing paper in a bath of sodium chloride which after drying was then refloated in a bath of silver nitrate: this resulted in the formation of light-sensitive silver chloride in the top surface of the paper.

This was then mounted in a frame in contact with the paper negative and exposed, or 'printed out', in sunlight until the required density of image was attained. No further chemical development was necessary: the positive image is made visible using the sun's power alone to reduce the silver salts to their pure metallic state.

Although, the beginning of modern photography, the calotype never reached the popularity of the daguerreotype process.

Today however (and so for many pioneer amateur photographers such as Julia Margaret Cameron) the poor image sharpness is one of the most appreciated quality's of these early paper photographs.

With thanks to Michael Gray for permission to use parts of his text.
The first 'Negative/Positive' paper process named after his English inventor William Henry Fox Talbot.

The paper processes which were ultimately destined to provide the foundations of modern photographic practice (only recently challenged by digital photography) were originally more imperfect than the daguerreotype in terms of sharpness, but they possessed a number of factors which in the end gave them a critical advantage.

Albumin print (1850 - 1900)
(1850 - 1900) Albumin print.
'Negative/Positive' process attributed to the French inventor Blanquart-Evrard in 1850.

The Albumen Print Process superseded Talbotís calotype process, so the albumen print started to displace the salt print in the mid-1850s, and had largely ousted it by the early 1860s.

Its introduction is generally attributed to the Frenchman Louis-Desiré Blanquart-Evrard. Although both types of prints belong to the same generic group, the albumen print is most often characterised by having a deep gloss finish.

From the 1850s up to the late 1890s, when it started to be replaced by a variety of papers which were capable of being produced by automated systems, the overwhelming majority of photographic prints were produced on albumen paper.

The treatment of Gold toning improved the reddish look of albumine prints into, with 19th. Century often associated, sepia color.

The albumin print was used for most of photography's popular applications such as the Carte-de Visite & Cabinet photographs, stereo-photographs, large format topographical views from all over the world, etc.

The albumin print became the most popular photo process in the
19th. Century. However, industrial produced, gelatine based papers started to oust the albumin prints round 1880.
Puppet player
With thanks to Michael Gray for permission to use parts of his text.

Ambrotype (1851 - 1870)
(1851 - 1870) Ambrotype.
'One-off' process using the technique of the wet collodion negative. Ambrotypes are underexposed collodion negatives presenting themselves as 'one-off' positive images when seen on a dark background.

James Ambrose Cutting patented this utilization (1854) of the collodion negative invented by Frederick Scott Archer (1851)

Due to presentation in similar frames & etuis, the ambrotype shows resemblance with daguerreotypes although it cannot be confused with the latter since the surface is not reflective.

The ambrotype was cheaper compared to the daguerreotype. Although exceptions are seen, in general the ambrotype image quality is more duller compared to the glossy and high reflective surface of the daguerreotype.

Similar to daguerreotypes, many ambrotypes where finely coloured by hand as a result of a long tradition of miniature painting.

Carbon print (1864 - 1920)
(1864 - 1920) Carbon print.
Although the most common 'non-silver' process, the Carbon print is not a true photograph due to the absence of silver.

The idea of the carbon image, L. Poitvin (1855), was improved by J. W. Swan in 1864.

The carbon print uses pigment in a gelatine based layer and therefore the image is very stable and almost free of fading true time and exposure to light.

Such as the albumin print, the carbon print was often used for the production of Carte-de-Visite and Cabinet photographs.

Since a carbon print replaces silver by pigments, many different colours can be used. Mostly a darker sepia or warm black is chosen.

Ferrotype - Tintype (1853 - 1920) - till 1950
(1853 - 1920) - till 1950 Ferrotype - Tintype.
'One-off' process using the technique of the wet collodion negative process on a tin plate. Therefore, tintypes, similar to Ambrotypes, are always seen as positive images.

The tintype was invented by Adolphe Alexandre Martin in 1853. The tintype was cheaper compared to the ambrotype.

When presented in frames or etuis, the tintype shows resemblance with the ambrotype, however, the former is more often presented in paper passe-partout or glass passe-partout only. Or without any embellishment.

Since tintypes where fast and cheap to produce, the process became popular on fairground and other popular places of entertainments.

A typical folk-art tradition, especially in the U.S.A. is the hand coloring of large format tintypes as can be seen in the 'full-plate' image on the left. A variant of the tintype is exposed on tissue or wood and know as the Pannotype.

Autochrome (1907 - 1935)
(1907 - 1935) Autochrome.
Without doubt, the most beautiful color process ever invented, the autochrome (Brothers Lumière, 1907) was the first commercially available 'true color' process.

Since the Lumiére brothers made the autochrome available in June 1907, photographers began worldwide experimenting with the new process. The autochrome's basic principle was the creation of a color experience by addition, opposite of techniques that produced colors through substraction.

The various colour grains where made of
dyed potato starch spread onto the glassplates. Their disadvantage of a visible grain structure became one of their greatest advantages when used in the hands of pictorial photographers.

Autochromes are dark but translucent images. They could be projected but are best viewed via back-lighting in a viewing device known as
Diascope. These early color images are most sensitive too fading and should therefore only be exposed to light during short viewing sessions.

In spite of their vulnerability numerous well preserved autochrome collections do exist worldwide. A high quality Belgian collection is preserved by Florent Van Hoof.

Collection Florent Van Hoof

Cyanotype (round 1845)
(round 1845) Cyanotype.
Early 'non-silver' process invented by Sir John Herschel in 1842. The typical 'Berlin blue' of a cyanotype was the chemical result after the mixture of two iron salts resulting in a stable blue color.

Cyanotypes usually show the same size as the negative that was used. Because of the poor sensitivity to light, contact printing was the best 'workable' option.

Although the latter disadvantage, beautiful artistic cyanotypes are often seen. Further, the process was regularly used for printing stereo photographs.

Crystoleum (round 1880 - 1895)
(round 1880 - 1895) Crystoleum.
A Crystoleum is an albumin print, glued face down & stuck on the inside of a curved glass. Then the paper backing was virtually rubbed away so that colours could be applied on the rear-side but shining through the paper and glass on the front-side.

An oil was used to make the print translucent and oil colours where added from behind to colour and ameliorate the image.
Often a second glass was stuck behind the first on which the broad areas of colour where painted.

The above resulted in a softly & smooth colour effect. This technique was often used to reproduce romantic illustrations in a coloured version, kitsch but nice. Portraits from life and soft erotic images are also seen in this charming technique, unfortunately often neglected by many collectors.

175 Ans Photographie
175 Jaar Fotografie

Copyright: 2003 - 2004 - 2005 - 2006 - 2007 - 2008 - 2009 - 2010 - 2011 - 2012 - 2013 - 2014 - 2015 - 2016 - 2017 - 2018 by Thomas Weynants
he online Media Archaeology Museum version (24) Jan 2017 to Dec 2018 - All rights are protected by SOFAM.be