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History of Photography in Brighton

History of Photography in Brighton

CollodionPositives - Cheap Portraits on Glass

Frederick Scott Archer's collodion 'wet plate' process produceda glass negative which could make an unlimited number of printson paper. However, most customers were seeking a cheap alternativeto the handsome daguerreotype portrait, which came protected underglass in a metal frame and presented in a velvet-lined, leather-bounddisplay case. Scott Archer soon realised that by underexposingthe collodion glass negative and placing it on a black background,the image took on the appearance of a positive picture.The resultingimage was as sharp and clear as a daguerreotype, yet Archer'snew process was cheaper and less complicated. Furthermore, thecollodion positive process was incredibly quick to perform.Photographers could see immediately the commercial possibilitiesof a cheap and speedy method of taking portraits. The "collodionpositive" photograph on glass could be backed with blackpaper, very dark varnish or provided with a background of blackvelvet or similar dark cloth. Protected by glass, placed in ametal frame and inserted in a presentation case or an elaborateframe, the collodion positive was an inexpensive substitute forthe daguerreotype portrait, which in the 1840s had been the preserveof the nobility and the wealthy middle classes of society.

APortrait of a Bearded Man. A collodion positive photograph onglass taken by George Ruff senior (c1858). The presentation caseis similar to the ones that held daguerreotype portraits.

William Lane of Brighton was promoting the new process of making"portraits and views taken on glass" as early as September1852. In an advertisement placed in The Times, dated 10th September1852, Lane claimed that "any person can produce in a fewseconds, at a trifling expense, truly life-like portraits."

Earlyin 1853, William Lane's Cheap Photographic Depot was offeringa "complete set of apparatus for the glass or paper process"for the sum of 4 guineas (£4. 4s/£4.20p). By October1853, The Royal Chain Pier Photographic Rooms in Brightonwere advertising "Portraits superior to engravings by thenew process on glass."

On 3rd August 1854, Grey & Hall's Photographic Institutionon St James Street announced they had "completed arrangementsfor taking portraits by all the most recent and improved processes,by License of the Patentees". In addition to Talbotype portraitsand "Daguerreotypes warranted to last," Grey andHall offered to make "Coloured Collodion Positives bya new and peculiar process" for the sum of 15 shillings (75p).

Stephen Grey and William Hall were keen to emphasizethat their new methods of taking portraits were "licensedby the Patentees". Archer had not patented his inventionand Beard's daguerreotype patent had expired the year before,but William Henry Fox Talbot claimed that the "collodionprocess" was covered by his earlier patent which had describeda negative/positive system of photography.

In 1854, W.H.Fox Talbot took legal action against the studio ofSilvester Laroche,the professional name of Martin Laroche, a Londonphotographer who had started to use Archer's "wet collodion"technique in 1853. Silvester Laroche went to court to defend hisright to use the "wet plate" process. In December 1854,Laroche was found not guilty of infringing Talbot's patent rightsand as a result of this legal judgement all photography was nowfree from restriction.

In the summer of 1855, James Henderson, a photographicartist who had previously operated portrait studios in London'sStrand and Regent Street, opened a photographic studio at No 5,Colonnade in New Road, Brighton. In an advertisement dated 4thAugust 1855, James Henderson offered to take "PhotographicPortraits, on Paper, Silver, and Glass Plates . Prices from10s 6d and upwards." In this newspaper advertisement, Henderson"begs to remind all lovers of Photography that he has beenat considerable expense in defending the freedom of this beautifulart against Mr Fox Talbot, the Patentee of the Talbotype process."Earlier, in May 1854, Talbot had obtained an injunction whichrestrained Henderson from making and selling photographic portraitsby the collodion process. Laroche's successful defence againstTalbot's legal action meant that Henderson and other photographersin Brighton were free to produce portraits using any of the mainphotographic processes.

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Watch the video: Origins of Photography - Virtual Discover Series, Session 1 (January 2022).