August 2011 Edition 77 Jerrems Family Newsletter
TBA
Dear Donald,
We welcome a look back at the 19th to 20th centuries evolution of photography and major photographers, including one of our own.

If you have an old family photograph we would love to publish it with your story.

OLD PHOTOGRAPHIC TECHNIQUES
Ray Jerrems, Our Genealogist, Historian  
INTRODUCTION
We have been putting historic photographs from various sources in the Jerrems Journal. Most have been taken using the comparatively modern process of cameras containing film (dating back to the 1890s), but recently we have located photographs using older techniques. In some cases, where the photo was not dated, we have had to identify the technique used to place a possible date on the photo. So I thought that it was time to describe the older techniques so that readers would understand what was involved in taking the photos, and possibly place a date on their own old photos. Here are the techniques, in chronological order.

DAGUERROTYPE
From 1833, Daguerre experimented with copper plates coated with silver iodide and developed with fumes from warmed mercury. In 1837 he found a way of "fixing" the photographic images by bathing the plates in a solution of common salt and 2 years later adopted thiosulphate of soda to replace salt. The process was lengthy and could only be carried out in photographic studios.

CALOTYPE
Calotype or talbotype was the next photographic process invented. Introduced in 1841 by Henry Fox Talbot, using paper coated with silver iodide. Potassium bromide was used to stabilize the silver oxide after exposure. This process was less of an ordeal, especially for travel photographers; paper negatives could be prepared at home, exposed on location, and then developed upon one's return. Widespread adoption of the calotype process was primarily prevented by the stiff licensing and equipment fees charged by Talbot.

AMBROTYPE
Ambrotypes were made from about 1854 up to the late eighties, the process having been invented by Frederick Scott Archer. They were made by placing a solution of collodion on a glass plate , exposing it, dipping it in silver nitrate and then placing a black background (usually black velvet) behind it. The result was a "positive" image on a glass plate. Strangely, the collodion mixture of ether and guncotton (guncotton being a military explosive) was not only inflammable but highly explosive. Mishaps were not uncommon.

The Ambrotype process was yet another method of reducing the cost of photography. It became popular because less exposure time was needed, and production was cheaper and quicker. Ambrotypes became very popular (especially for portraits), particularly in America. The process was also called "Melainotype" in Europe.

Readers with good memories will remember the photo at the top of this Journal. It is from the July 2010 Journal. It is an old ambrotype photo of "Franklin Hose Co. No. 5, Utica, NY". The tinting would have been added by hand and possibly protected with varnish.

ALBUMEN PRINTS
The albumen print was a further development of the ambrotype because the negative was the same type of glass plate with collodion emulsion, used as a negative instead of as a positive.

The albumen print, also called albumen silver print, was invented by Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard, and was the first commercially exploitable method of producing a photographic print on a paper base from a negative. It used the albumen found in egg whites to bind the photographic chemicals to the paper and became the dominant form of photographic positives from 1855 to the turn of the century.

The size of the print was determined by the size of the glass plate, which in turn was controlled by the size of the camera.

TINTYPE
   
The tintype, also known as a ferrotype, is a variation on ambrotype, but was produced on metallic sheet (not, actually, tin) instead of glass. The plate was coated with collodion and sensitized just before use, as in the wet plate process. It was introduced by Adolphe Alexandre Martin in 1853, and became instantly popular, particularly in the United States.

This process appealed to street photographers because it was simple, faster, cheaper and more robust (for instance a photograph could be carried about, sent in the post, cut up or mounted in an album). It made photography available to working classes, not just to the more well-to-do. Whereas up till then the taking of a portrait had been more of a special "event", after the introduction of tintypes, we see more relaxed, spontaneous poses. Being quite rugged, tintypes could be sent by post, and many astute tintypists did quite a trade in America during the Civil War, visiting the encampments.

Sandra Walcyk has some quite small tintypes, the oldest being the one of her great grandfather William H. Kirkwood I with his father John, taken in about 1870. You will see that the background has been damaged.

GELATIN EMULSION DRY PLATES
In 1878 Charles Harper Bennett started making dry plates coated with gelatin and silver bromide. Dry plates allowed the plates to be prepared in advance and stored for several days or weeks before exposure and or processing. It was much more sensitive to light than the wet collodion process and only required exposures of a fraction of a second. George Eastman was very successful in America due to his patent on his coating machine taken out in 1879.
ROLL FILMS
   
In 1884, Eastman patented a photographic medium that replaced plates with a photo-emulsion coated on paper rolls. The invention of roll film greatly sped up the process of recording multiple images. Eastman then received a patent in 1888 for a camera designed to use roll film, and registered the trademark Kodak. He introduced the famous "Brownie Camera" in 1900 at a price of just $1. It became a great success. Many soldiers used Brownie cameras in the First World War, resulting in an enormous number of photos being sent home.

The photograph of Alexander Nicholl and the 2 children in the January 2009 Journal would have been taken using the "roll film" process.

I will now turn to the work of the two most famous 19th century photographers in the United States and Australia.
MATHEW BRADY
   
The most famous American photographer in the 1800s was Mathew Brady, who was born in the US in about 1822. By 1844 he had his own photography studio in New York, and by 1845 Brady began to exhibit his portraits of famous Americans. Brady's early images were daguerreotypes, and he won many awards for his work; in the 1850s ambrotype photography became popular, which gave way to the albumen print, most commonly used in the American Civil War photography.

Brady's efforts to document the Civil War on a grand scale by bringing his photographic studio right onto the battlefields earned him his place in history. During the war Brady spent over $100,000 to create over 10,000 glass plates.

He employed about 23 men, each of whom was given a traveling darkroom, to go out and photograph scenes from the Civil War. Brady generally stayed in Washington, D.C., organizing his assistants and rarely visited battlefields personally, possibly due to his failing eyesight. Brady photographed 18 American Presidents, including Abraham Lincoln on many occasions.

Despite his success as a photographer he was continually in financial trouble after the end of the Civil War and died penniless in 1896.
MERLIN THE PHOTOGRAPHIC MAGICIAN
   
Arguably the most famous photographer in Australia in the 1800s, the picturesquely-named Beaufoy Merlin was born in England in 1830 and came to Australia in 1849. He began his photographic career in Victoria in 1866 (trading as the American and Australasian Photographic Company) where he photographed the buildings in Melbourne and in country towns. He then travelled to Sydney, photographing towns on the way. Within a few years he had developed a unique style of outdoor photography involving the use of figures in his photographs.

1872 saw Merlin setting up a photographic studio in the mining town of Hill End (north of Bathurst) in NSW with the assistance of the wealthy miner Bernhard Otto Holtermann (of "Holtermann Nugget" fame). Holtermann appointed Merlin to be official photographer for his planned 'International Traveling Exposition'.

This project became one of the greatest projects in Australian 19th photography. Holtermann bought Merlin a larger camera. A studio was built on land owned by Holtermann in Hill End and excursions were made to surrounding areas by a horse drawn caravan containing a dark room. Unfortunately in 1873 Merlin became too ill to continue the project, which he passed on to his assistant Charles Bayliss (1850-97), before he died from pneumonia later that year.

In 1951 a collection of 3500 glass photographic slides was found in the Holtermann family's family home (coincidentally this was not far from my grandfather's house), these now form "The Holtermann Collection".
PHOTOGRAPHY ON WHEELS
   
Here is a photo of William Redish Pywell driving his photography wagon as he and Alexander Gardner, a professional photographer, made their way in 1867 toward the Kansas Expedition which had been assembled to pursue the Cheyennes and other Plains Indians. Pywell's dark room was located behind the driver's seat (large black cloth) and this was where Pywell and Gardner processed their photographs.
SANDRA'S MYSTERY PHOTOGRAPH
   
Sandra does not know what method was used for the photo of her great great grandmother, Sylvia Eliza Montgomery Kirkwood. The photo is quite large, about 8" X 10". It is on heavy paper attached to a cardboard-like backing and the backing is deteriorating and cracking around the edges. She estimates Sylvia's age at 50-60 in the photo which would date it at 1870-1880. There are no markings on the back, other than Sandra's grandmother's notation as to who it is, and she did not indicate Sylvia's age or the date.

My guess is that the photo is an albumen print.

CONCLUSION

The next time you pick up your digital camera or mobile phone and snap away merrily, spare a thought for the laborious photographic methods used in the early days.
Remembering Carol Jerrems
Ray Jerrems    
We would be remiss if we did not mention our own photographer, the late Carol Jerrems, who received a lot of coverage in the early Journals. Later an acclaimed documentary was made about her life. Rather than attempt to summarise her life I will limit myself to a quotation from the July 2005 Journal regarding her most famous photograph:

"Carol, arguably the most famous Jerrems of all time (just check the number of hits on Google) was the author of a famous photo of a petite and demure young woman who was wearing nothing above the waist but an imperceptible Melbourne suntan. This photo has been reproduced in postcard size by the National Art Gallery, where it has been available in the foyer for 20 years."

Looking for YOUR Old Photos
Donald Jerrems  
We continue to search the archives and attics for old pictures of Jerrems family members. If you have one send it in either with a scan (digital) or hard copy (we will return it).
     



Past Editions of the Jerrems Journal ©

2005 None None None None None June July August September October November  December
                      Thanksgiving 2005  
 2006  January February March April May June  July August September October November December 
                         
 2007  January February March April May June  July August September October November December 
                         
 2008  January February March April May June  July August September October November December 
                         
 2009  January February March April May June  July August September October November December 
                         
 2010  January February March April May June  July August September October November December 
                         
 2011  January February March April May June  July August September October November December 
                         
 2012  January February March April May June  July August September October November December 
                         
 2013  January February March April May June  July August September October November December 
                         

    Back to Jerrems Home