History of Photography
History of Photography
A World History of Photography
The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991
REV. CALVERT JONES
HENRI LE SECQ
EDOUARD DENIS BALDUS
ROBERT HENRY CHENEY
BENJAMIN BRECKNELL TURNER
MAXIME DU CAM
AUGUSTE -ROSALIE BISSON
GEORGE WASHINGTON WILSON
To represent. . . the beautiful and the sublime in nature...
qualities alike of head and of heart, in rapt accordance with the
Infinite Creative Spirit.
Aurelius Root, 1864
There is only
one Coliseum or Pantheon; but how many millions of potential
negatives have they shed,—representatives of billions of
pictures,—since they were erected!
Matter in large masses must always be fixed and dear; form is
cheap and transportable. . . .
Every conceivable object of Nature and Art will soon scale off its
surface for us.
EASY OF ACCESS, generally
immobile, and of acknowledged artistic appeal, landscape, nature, and
architecture provided congenial subjects for the first photographers. The
desire for accurate graphic transcription of scenery of all kinds— natural
and constructed—had led to the perfection of the camera obscura in
the first place, and it was precisely because exactness was so difficult
even with the aid of this device that Talbot and others felt the need to
experiment with the chemical fixation of reflected images. Beginning with
the daguerreotype and the calotype, 19th-century scenic views evolved
along several directions. They provided souvenirs for the new middle-class
traveler, and brought the world into the homes of those unable to make
such voyages. Photographs of natural phenomena provided botanists,
explorers, geologists, and naturalists with the opportunity to study
previously undocumented specimens and locations. And as scientific
knowledge increased, as changing conditions of life in urban centers
promoted new concepts of how to understand and represent the material
world, the camera image itself became part of the shifting relationship
between traditional and modern perceptions of nature and the built
From the Renaissance up until the
middle of the 18th century, painted landscape, with few exceptions, had
been considered important mainly as a background for historical and
religious events; landscape as such occupied a low position in the
hierarchy of artistic subjects. With the relaxation of academic art
strictures and the introduction during the Romantic era of a more sensuous
depiction of nature, artists turned to a wider range of motifs from the
material world. These extended from pastoral landscapes, seen from afar,
to depictions of singular formations—water, skies, trees, rocks, and
fruits of the field. As heirs to these evolving attitudes toward nature,
photographers, armed with a device they believed would faithfully record
actuality, approached the landscape with the conviction that the camera
might perform a dual function—that photographs might reveal form and
structure accurately and at the same time present the information in an
artistically appealing fashion.
96. FREDERICK CATHERWOOD. The Ruins of Palenque, Casa No. 1, 1841.
Lithograph . Collection George R. Rinhart.
The public appetite for
scenic views had a significant effect on early landscape photographs
also. Through most of the 18th century, oil paintings, watercolors,
engravings, and (after 1820) lithographs of topographical views
(often based on drawings made with the camera, obscura or camera
lucida, see A Short Technical History, Part I) had become
increasingly popular. The landscape or view photograph was welcomed
not only because it was a logical extension of this genre, but also
for its supposedly more faithful representation of topography,
historic monuments, and exotic terrain. As an example of the overlap
that came about in the wake of changing technologies, drawings made
by the American explorers Frederick Catherwood and John L. Stephens
of their findings on expeditions to the Yucatan peninsula (pi. no.
96) in 1839 and 1841 were based on unaided observation, on the use
of a camera lucida, and on daguerreotypes the two had made. Since
many views, including these, were made with publication in mind, the
camera image promoted a more accurate translation from drawing to
mechanically reproduced print, supplying the engraver or
lithographer with detailed information at a time when inexpensive
methods of transferring the photograph directly to the plate had not
yet been developed.
Truthful representation of the
real world without sentimentality presented itself as an important
objective to many 19th-century scientists and intellectuals, including
French novelist Gustave Flaubert, who held that the artist should be
"omnipotent and invisible." This position reflected one aspect of the
positivist ideas of social philosopher Auguste Comte and others who were
convinced that a scientific understanding of material reality was the key
to economic and social progress. The camera image was regarded as a
fitting visual means for just such an impersonal representation of nature.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to determine the full extent of
daguerrcotyping activities with reference to views of nature,
architecture, and monuments. Many plates have been lost or destroyed;
others, hidden away in archives or in historical and private collections,
have been surfacing in recent years, but no overall catalogs of such
images exist. From the works most often seen, it seems apparent that the
finely detailed daguerreotype was supremely suited to recording
architectural features while somewhat less useful for pure nature. The
influential British art critic John Ruskin, who in 1845 began to make his
own daguerreotypes as well as to use those of others in preparing the
drawings for his books on architecture, praised the verisimilitude of the
daguerreotype image as "very nearly the same thing as carrying off the
Daguerreotype scenic views made on
both sides of the Atlantic reveal attitudes about nature and art of which
neither the photographer nor the viewer may have been aware at the time.
The stark mountains and graceless buildings in an 1840 image by Samuel
Bemis of a farm scene in New Hampshire (pi. no. 97) seem to suggest the
solitary and obdurate quality of the New England country-side. Admittedly,
this Boston dentist, who acquired his photographic equipment from
Daguerre's agent Gouraud, was working at the very dawn of photography,
when materials and processes were in a state of flux. In contrast, the
harmonious landscape (pi. no. 98) by Alexandre Clausel, probably made near
Troves, France, in 1855, attests to not only a firmer grasp of technique
but also to a greater sensitivity to the manner in which the traditional
canons of landscape composition were handled.
Landscape photography evolved as a
commercial enterprise with the taking of views of well-known or
extraordinary natural formations for the benefit of travelers. A favorite
site in the United States, Niagara Falls was daguerreotyped by Southworth
and Hawes in 1845, ambrotyped as well as daguerreotyped by George Platt
Babbitt in 1848, and photographed on stereographic glass plates by the
Langenheim brothers in 1855. Albumen prints from collodion negatives of
the Falls were made by English commercial photographers John Werge and
William England in 1853 and 1859 respectively, and from dry plates by
George Barker. In the Midwest, daguerreotypes of similar scenic wonders
were made by Alexander Hesler and others in larger numbers than is
generally appreciated today.
97. Samuel Bemis. New Hampshire Landscape, 1840.
Daguerreotype. Collection Ken Heyman, New York.
98, Alexandre Clausel. Landscape, Probably Near Troyes, France, c. 1855.
Daguerreotype. International Museum of Photography at George Eastman
House, Rochester, N.Y.
The urban scene also was
considered appropriate for the daguerreotypist. Bridge and Boats on the
Thames (pi. no. 9) of 1851 by Baron Jean Baptiste Louis Gros typifies the
incredible amount of detail made visible by this process, and indicates
the way bodies of water might be used to unify sky and foreground, a
solution that virtually became a formula for many landscape photographers.
The drama of dark silhouette against a lighter sky, seen in Wilhelm
Halffter's image of Berlin (pi. no. 10) demonstrates another method of
treating the problem of visually unrelated rectangles of light and dark
areas that the actual land- or cityscape frequently presented; this, too,
became a commonplace of view photography Most landscape imagery was
designed for a broad market—the buyers of engraved and lithographed
scenes—so the problem of the nonduplicatable metal plate was solved by
employing artists to translate the daguerreotype into engravings,
aquatints, and lithographs. One of the first publishers of an extensive
work based on daguerreotypes, Noel Marie Paymal Lerebours (an
optical-instrument maker who had been associated with Daguerre's
endeavors), made use of daguerreotyped scenes from Europe, the Near East,
and the United States; these were either commissioned or purchased
outright as material for engravings, with figures and fillips often added
by artists. Among the daguerreotypists whose work appeared in Lerebours's
Excursions daguerriennes: Vues et monuments les plus remarquables duglobe
(Dagnerrinn Excursions: The World's Most Remarkable Scenes and Monuments),
issued between 1840 and 1843, were Frederic GoupilFesquct, Hector Horcau
(pi. no. 99), Joly de Lotebiniere, and Horace Vernet, all of whom supplied
views of Egypt. Daguerreotyping, it seems, had become indispensable both
for travelers who could not draw and artists who did not have the time to
Interest in unusual scenery and
structures was so strong that even though daguerreotyping in the field was
not easy, a number of other similar projects were initiated in the early
1840s, generally by affluent individuals who hired guides and followed
safe routes. Dr. Alexander John Ellis, a noted English philologist, was
inspired by Excursions daguerriennes to conceive of Italy Daguerreotyped,
comprising views of architecture engraved from full-plate daguerreotypes
that he had supervised or made himself in 1840-41; the project was
abandoned, although the plates still exist. The British physician Dr.
George Skene Keith and a well-to-do French amateur, Joseph Philibert
Girault de Prangey, took daguerreotypes, hoping to publish works on Near
Eastern architecture that might show details and structure in close-ups
and suggest connections between architecture and biblical history. In
Switzerland, Johann Baptist Isenring, a painter and engraver turned
daguerreotypist, and Franziska Mollinger, one of the early women
daguerreotypists, each traveled by caravan throughout the country taking
views of scenery to be engraved and published.
99. HECTOR HOREAU. Abu Simbel, 1840.
Aquatint. Collection Gerard-Levy,
Before giving way to the more
practicable negative-positive process, the daguerreotype achieved a
measure of additional popularity' with respect to panoramic views— images
that are much wider than they are high. It will be recalled that panoramas
(and in Paris, The Diorama) with minutely rendered landscape detail were
among the most popular entertainments of the early 1800s in Europe and the
United States.' Soon after the announcement of the daguerreotype,
photographers attempted to capitalize on the appetite for this kind of
encompassing yet accurate visual experience. At first, series of
individual daguerreotypes arranged in contiguous order to depict a wider
prospect were popular, especially in the United States. There the urge to
document urban development occupied photographers in virtually all major
cities, as exemplified by Fairmount Watenvorks, a series by William
Southgate Porter consisting of eight plates made in Philadelphia in 1848.
Photographers throughout the nation made panoramic views of the cities in
an attempt to encompass the urban growth taking place before their eyes; a
360-degree panorama of Chicago made by Alexander Hesler in 1858 was
possibly the first such effort. Wilderness landscape was treated similarly
by the San Francisco daguerreotypist Robert Vance and by John Wesley
Jones, early American daguerreotypists of western scenery. Jones took
1,500 views in the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada (none of which has
survived) on which to base a painted panorama entitled The Great
Pantoscope. Panoramic views also were made on single plates of extended
width, achieved either by using a wide-angle lens, or by racking the
camera to turn slowly in an arc while the plate moved laterally in the
opposite direction. In 1845, Fredrich von Martens, a German printmaker
living in Paris, was the first to work out the optical and mechanical
adjustments necessary to make single panoramic daguerreotypes of his
adopted city, then he turned to a similar format in collodion for Alpine
landscapes. Indeed with the advent of the wet plate, the panorama came
into its own, even though panoramas on paper had been made by the calotypc
process. While exposure time for the glass negative often remained long,
the resulting sharply detailed segments of a scene, printed and glued
together to form an encompassing view, were taken as embracing reality
even though the human eye could not possibly have seen the landscape in
that fashion. However, these panoramas were more realistic than the
lithographed bird's-eye views that were so popular. By using panoramic
cameras that rotated in an arc of approximately 120 degrees, photographers
might avoid the exacting calculations needed to assure that the panels of
the panorama would join properly without overlaps or missing segments, but
these devices could not encompass as wide an angle as the segmented
panoramas and consequently seemed less dramatic. Panoramas were produced
by photographers everywhere, by the Bisson brothers, Adolphe Braun, Samuel
Bourne, and many now-unknown figures in Europe, Asia, and India, and by
American photographers of both urban development and western wilderness.
George Robinson Fardon, William Henry Jackson, Carleton E. Watkins, and
especially Eadweard Muybridgc, who devoted himself to making panoramic
views of San Francisco on three different occasions, were among the more
successful panoramists in the United States during the collodion/albumen
era (pi. no. 165).
Despite unparalleled clarity of
detail in landscape daguerreotypes, the difficulties in making and
processing exposures in the field and the problems of viewing an image
subject to reflections and of replicating the image for publication made
it an inefficient technology with respect to views. From the start, the
duplicatable calotype was accepted by many as a more congenial means of
capturing scenery, and it achieved greater sensitivity and flexibility for
this purpose after improvements had been made by Louis Desire
Blanquart-Evrard and Gustave Le Gray. Be-tween 1841 and about 1855, when
collodion on glass sup-planted paper negatives entirely, calotypists
documented cityscape, historic and exotic monuments, rural scenery, and
the wilder, less-accessible terrains that were beginning to appeal to
Europeans who had wearied of the more familiar settings. Because of their
broad delineation, calotype views more nearly resembled graphic works such
as aquatints, and this tended to increase their appeal to both artists and
elitists in the intellectual community who preferred aesthetic objects to
informational documents. Nevertheless, the calotype still had enough
detail to recommend it as a basis for copying, as the British publication
The Art Union pointed out in 1846 when it noted that painters, not being
as enterprising as photographers, could depend on "sun-pictures" (calotypes)
of places such as "the ruins of Babylon or the wilds of Australia" for
accurate views from which they could make topographical paintings.
Somewhat easier to deal with than
daguerreotyping in the field, the chemistry of the early calotype still
was complicated enough to make its use in travel a problem. Nevertheless,
a number of British amateurs (often aided by servants and local help)
transported paper, chemicals, and cameras to the Continent and the Near
East soon after Talbot's announcement. Three members of his circle—
Calvert Jones, George W. Bridges, and Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot—were
the first hardy souls to journey from Great Britain to Italy, Greece, and
North Africa with calotype equipment. Through its high vantage point and
pattern of light and shade, a view of the Porta della Ripetta in Rome (pi.
no. 101) suggests that Jones (who photographed in Italy and Malta) was
interested in atmospheric and artistic qualities as much as in
description. Bridges, who traveled in the region for seven years, made
some 1,700 pictures, which he found were subject to serious fading; a
small group was published in 1858 and 1859 in an album entitled Palestine
as It Is: In a Series of Photographic Views... Illustrating the Bible.
Another group of calotypes of the area by Dr. Claudius Galen Wheelhouse
was gathered together in an album entitled Photographic Sketches from the
Shores of the Mediterranean. Ernest De Caranza in Anatolia, Maxime Du Camp
in Egypt, and Pierre Tremaux in the Sudan were others among the irly
figures who attempted, with varying degrees of success, to use the
calotype process to photograph in North Africa and the Near East. These
works were forerunners of the numerous views on paper whose appeal to die
Victorian public may have been in part because they afforded a contrast
between the progress visible at home and the undeveloped landscape of the
region and in part because they recalled to viewers their biblical and
In spite of these efforts and even
though Talbot placed no restrictions on the noncommercial use of calotypes,
view-making did not exactly flourish in England during the first ten years
of the process's existence. Instead, images of landscape and architecture
achieved a pinnacle of excellence in France during the 1850s, as a result
of interest by a small group of painter-photographers in an improved paper
process that had evolved from experiments by Blanquart-Evrard and Le Gray.
By waxing the paper negative before exposure, Le Gray achieved a
transparency akin to glass, making the paper more receptive to fine
detail. The spread of this improved technique in France during the early
1850s gave the calotype a new life and resulted in images of extraordinary
quality. This flowering coincided with the concern among Barbizon
landscape painters for capturing the quality of light and revealing the
value of unspoiled nature in human experience.
The improved calotype also made
conceivable the photographic campaign—government or privately sponsored
commissions to produce specific images. One of the earliest was financed
in 1850 by the Belgian treasury, but the most renowned, the Missions
heliqgraphiques, was organized in 1851 by the Commission des Monuments
his-tofiques (Commission on Historical Monuments) to pro-vide a pictorial
census of France's architectural patrimony. Undertaken initially during
the Second Republic, in accord with continuing efforts by Napoleon III to
preserve and modernize France, it involved the documentation of aged and
crumbling churches, fortresses, bridges, and castles that were slated for
restoration under the guidance of the architect Eugene Emmanuel
The five photographers engaged in
this innovative documentation were Edouard Denis Baldus, Hippolyte Bayard,
Le Gray, Henri Le Secq, and O. Mestral. Photographers received itineraries
and instructions, quite exact at rimes, detailing the localities to be
photographed. Among the most accomplished of the group were Le Gray and Le
Secq, both of whom had been trained as painters in the studio of Paul
Delaroche (along with the British photographer Roger Fenton). Le Secq's
Strasbourg Cathedral (pi. no. 102), one of a series of architectural
monuments, is an exhilarating organization of masses of sculptural detail.
Le Gray (see Profile), in whose studio many calotypists first learned the
process, was a demanding technician who also was involved in making
collodion negatives; his images will be discussed shordy in the context of
developments in that material. Little is known of Mestral, a former
daguerreotypist and an associate of Le Gray, other than that he
photographed in Brittany and Normandy on his own and from the Dordogne
southward in company with Le Gray. The image of the bridge Pont Valentre
(pi. no. 103) in Cahors, included because of impending plans to restore
what was then considered the finest example of medieval military
architecture in France, suggests a distinctive feeling for volume and
101. REV. CALVERT JONES. Porta della Ripetta, Rome, 1846.
Science Museum, London.
102. HENRI LE SECQ. Strasbourg Cathedral, 1851. Calotype.
International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester,
IO3. O. MESTRAL. Cahors: Pont Valentre, c. 1851. Calotype.
Caisse NationaJc des Monuments Historiques et des Sites, Paris.
Unhappily, the Missions project
never reached full fruition. Negatives—some 300—and prints were filed away
without being reproduced or published, either because the project's sole
aim was to establish an archive or because the photographers depicted
these ancient structures in too favorable a light for the images to serve
as propaganda for restoration efforts. Individually, they were used by
architects and masons working under Viollet-le-Duc's guidance in matching
and fabricating decorative elements that had been destroyed. (More than a
century later, these early photographs still proved to be useful guides in
the restoration of ancient monuments.) Nevertheless, the government of
France under Napoleon III continued to regard photography—whether calotype
or collodion/ albumen—as a tool integral to its expansive domestic and
foreign programs, commissioning documentation of the countryside, the
railroad lines, and of natural disasters as evidence of its concern for
national programs and problems. Baldus produced about 30 large-format
negatives of the flooding of the Rhone River in 1856 (pi. no. 104). It is
apparent from the amplitude of his vision and the sense of structure in
the example seen here that no dichotomy existed in the photographer's mind
between landscape art and documentation.
Not all French landscape
calotypists were trained artists, nor was their work invariably
commissioned. Indeed, one of the intriguing aspects of the epoch is that
scientists as well as painters found the paper negative a congenial
process for representing nature. Victor Regnault, director of the Sevres
porcelain factory (after 1852) and president of both the French Academy of
Sciences and the Societe Franfaise de Photographic, had first become
curious about paper photography when Talbot disclosed the process, but
only pursued this interest in 1851 after improvements had been made by
Blanquart- Evrard. Using the waxed-paper process, he experimented with
exposure and produced a number of idyllic, mist-shrouded views of the
countryside around the factory, among them The Banks of the Seine at
Sevres (pi. no. 105), in which he included the everyday objects of rural
existence such as casks and barrow. Louis Robert, chief of the painters
and gilders at the porcelain factory, worked both at Sevres and
Versailles, using the calotype process before turning to albumen on glass;
a number of his calotypcs were included in Blanquart-Evrard's 1853
publication Souvenirs de Versailles (pi. no. 106). These images display a
sensibility that is similar to that of Barbizon painters in their lyrical
approach to the homely and simple aspects and objects of nature and rural
British amateur photographers
welcomed the improved calotype for its greater sensitivity and definition.
As heirs to picturesque and topographical traditions in landscape imagery,
they sought to maintain a delicate balance between affective expression
and the descriptive clarity that the improved process made possible. At
times, English camera images of buildings and their surroundings seem to
reflect the notion put forth by contemporary writers that architectural
structures have expressive physiognomies much like those of humans. For
example, Guy's Cliffe, Warwickshire (pi. no. 107) by the English amateur
Robert Henry Cheney brings to mind a melancholy spirit, a phrase used by
Ruskin to describe the character of certain kinds of buildings. The most
celebrated English photographer of this period, Roger Fenton (to be
discussed shortly), was extravagantly praised in the British press for the
marked "character" of his architectural images.
Benjamin Brecknell Turner, an
English businessman who made pure landscape calotypes (pi. no. 108) as
well as portraits and architectural views, found the paper negative so
sympathetic to his vision of untrammeled nature that he continued to work
with the material until 1862, long after most photographers had switched
to glass plates. On the other hand, Thomas Keith, a Scottish physician,
practiced the calotype for only a very few years, and then only on
occasions when the quality of light enabled him to make negatives of great
tonal range. Keith's interest in the expressive nature of light, inspired
perhaps by his acquaintance with Hill and Adamson, is apparent in images
made in 1856 on the island of Iona, among them Doorway, St. Oran's Chapel
(pi. no. 109), where the factual record of ancient church architecture is
given unusual force by strongly accentuated illumination.
104. EDOUARD DENIS BALDUS. The Flooding of the Rhone at Avignon, 1856.
Calotype. Caisse Nationale des Monuments Historiques et des Sites, Paris.
105. VICTOR REGNAULT. The Banks of the Seine at Sevres, 1851-52.
Calotype. Collection Andre Jammes, Paris. Art Institute of Chicago.
106. LOUIS ROBERT. Versailles, Neptune Basin, c. 1853.
Calotype. Collection Andre Jammes, Paris. Art Institute of Chicago
107. ROBERT HENRY CHENEY. Guy's Cliffe, Warwickshire, 1850s.
Albumen print. Collection Centre Canadien d'Architecture/Canadian
Centre for Architecture, Montreal.
108. BENJAMIN BRECKNELL TURNER. Old Willows, c. 1856.
Waxed paper negative. Collection Andre Jammes, Paris. Art Institute of
109. THOMAS KEITH. Doorway, St. Gran's Chapel, Iona, 1856.
Calotype. Thomas Keith Collection, Edinburgh City Libraries.
Calotyping also appealed to
Englishmen who made their homes outside the British Isles, among them
Maxwell Lyte and John Stewart, who lived in Pau in the Pyrenees in the
1850s. Stewart's views of the rugged terrain of this region (pi. no. 110),
published by Blanquart-Evrard and exhibited in England, were praised by
his father-in-law Sir John Herschcl for the artistic effects of their
"superb combination of rock, mountain, forest and water." Both Lyte and
Stewart were members of the Societe Frangaise de Photographic Along with
Thomas Sutton, the first in Britain to use Blanquart-Evrard's process in a
publishing venture, they kept open the channels of communication between
the French and British regarding the latest in photochemical technology.
French and British imperial
interest in the countries of the Near East, Egypt in particular, continued
to lure photographers using paper (and later glass) negatives into these
regions. In 1849, the wealthy French journalist Maxime Du Camp,
accompanied by the young Flaubert, was sent on an official photographic
mission to Egypt. Trained by Le Gray and equipped with calotyping
appa-ratus "for die purpose of securing, along the way, and with the aid
of this marvelous means of reproduction, views of monuments and copies of
inscriptions," Du Camp also was expected to make facsimile casts of
hieroglyphic inscriptions. The calotypes, printed in 1852 by
Blanquart-Evrard for his first publication, Egypte, Nubie, Palestine et
Syrie, 11 display a concern for establishing accurate scale, as seen in
the human yardstick provided by a native assistant in The Colossus of Abu
Simbel (pi. no. 111), but they also demonstrate the definition and clarity
that the improved calotype made possible.
Five years later, the amateur
French archaeologist Augustc Salzmann briefly used the calotype with
similar authority to make documents of architectural ruins in Jerusalem in
order to "render a service to science" and to help solve a controversy
about the antiquity of the monuments. Working with an assistant, Salzmann
was able to produce about 150 paper negatives under difficult
circum-stances; these, too, were printed at the Blanquart-Evrard
establishment at Lille. In addition to an avowed scientific aim, images
such as Jerusalem, Islamic Fountain (pi. no. 112) indicate the
photographer's mastery of composition and sensitivity to the effects of
light. The work of both Du Camp and Salzmann indicates that in the hands
of imaginative individuals the camera image might develop a unique
aesthetic, an ability to handle volume and light in an evocative manner
while also documenting actuality.
110. JOHN STEWART. Passage in the Pyrenees, n.d.
Calotype. Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh
111. MAXIME DU CAMP. The Colossus of Abu Simbel, c. 1850.
Calotype. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
112. AUGUSTE SALZMANN. Jerusalem, Islamic Fountain, 1854.
Calotype. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
Landscapes in Colbdion/Albumen
The new collodion technology,
discovered and publicized by Archer in 1850 and 1851, forced landscape
photographers and documentarians operating in the field to transport an
entire darkroom—tent, trays, scales, chemicals, and even distilled
water—besides cameras and glass plates (pi. nos. 113 and 114). It may seem
astonishing today that, under such circumstances, this technique should
have been considered an improvement over the calotypc, which also was
somewhat more sensitive to natural tonalities and had greater range. But
paper negatives required time-consuming skills for complete realization.
With the promise of sharper and more predictable results in less time, the
glass negative with its coating of collodion and silver-iodide preempted
all other processes for the next 30 years. Together with the albumen
print, which retained the sharpness of the image because the printing
paper was also coated with an emulsion, collodion made the mechanization
of the landscape view possible, turning the scenic landscape into an item
of consumption, and landscape photography into photo-business.
Limitations in the sensitivity of
the collodion material itself were responsible for evoking contradictory
aesthetic attitudes about images made from glass plates. Because of the
limited responsiveness of silver-iodide to the colors of spectral light
other than blue (and ultraviolet radiation), landscape images that
displayed blank white skies and dark, relatively undifferentiated
foregrounds were not un-common. While commercial publishers seem not to
have been unduly disturbed, this characteristic was decried by Lady
Elizabeth Eastlake, one of the first serious English critics of
photography. Writing in the Quarterly Review in 1857, she observed, "If
the sky be given, therefore, the landscape remains black and underdone; if
the landscape be rendered, the impatient action of light has burnt out all
cloud form in one blaze of white.'" She added that the collodion landscape
photograph was unable to represent the tonal gradations that the eye
accepts as denoting spatial recession, and that by its combined lack of
atmosphere and too great precision, the image showed both too little and
too much. Among others who objected to the lack of realism in the extreme
contrast between dark and light areas in landscape photographs was Hermann
Wilhelm Yogel, an influential German photographer, critic, and
photo-chemical researcher, whose opinions appeared frequently in American
periodicals during the 1860s and '70s, and who was successful in his
efforts to improve the sensitivity of the silver halides to the various
colors of light.
Photographers concerned with
artistic landscapes avoided these problems with what was called
"artifice." This involved using masks and combining two negatives on the
same print—one for the sky and one for the ground—-or employing
hand-manipulations to remove un-attractive mottled and gray areas. Valley
of the Huisne (pi. no. 115) by Camille Silvy, praised as a "gem" when
exhibited in 1858, exemplifies the possibilities of this technique for
creating scenes that a contemporary critic characterized as "rich in
exquisite and varied detail, with broad shadows stealing over the whole."
Le Gray, whose role in paper photography has been noted, used double
printing in a number of collodion seascapes made at Sete (Cettc) (pi. no.
116) around 1856—works similar in theme and style to seascapes painted by
French artists Eugene Delacroix and Gustave Courbet at about the same
time. Less traditionally picturesque than Silvy's scene, Le Gray
transformed clouds, sea, and rocks into an evocative arrangement of volume
and light, into an "abstraction called art," in today's language. That
composite landscapes of this period could be and often were unconvincingly
pieced together is apparent from contemporary criticism that complained of
pictures with clouds that were not reflected in the water or of
foregrounds taken in early morning joined to skies taken at noon.
113-114. UNKNOWN. European-style Portable Darkroom Tent, 1877.
Wood engravings from A History and Handbook of Photography, edited by J.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; gift of Spencer Bickerton, 1938.
115. CAMILLE SILVY. Valley of the Huisne, France, 1858.
Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
116. GUSTAVE LE GRAY. Brig Upon the Water, 1856.
Albumen. Albumen print. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
The government of Napoleon III, which had promoted the calotype as a
means of documenting both scientific progress and royal patronage,
continued to regard collodion images in the same light. What at first
glance may seem to be landscape pure and simple, such as views taken in
the Alps by the Bisson brothers, was motivated by the Imperial desire to
celebrate territorial acquisition—in this case the ceding to France of
Nice and Savoy by the Kingdom of Sardinia. During the collodion era, the
Bissons had rapidly extended their range of subjects to embrace art
reproductions, architecture, and landscapes, often in very large format.
Passage des Ecbelles (pi. no. 117), one of the six views made by Auguste-Rosalie
as a participant in the second scaling of Mont Blanc in 1862, integrates
the description of distinctive geological formations with a classical
approach to composition, achieving in its balance of forms and tonalities
a work of unusually expressive power. A similar evocation of solitary
nature unaltered by human effort can be seen in Gorge of the Tamine (pi.
no. 118) by Charles Soulier, a professional view-maker who is better known
for his urbane Paris scenes than for Alpine landscapes. In view of
steadily encroaching urbanization, these images suggest a public nostalgia
for virgin nature that will be encountered again, more forcefully, in
camera images of the American wilderness during the 1860s and '70s. Scenic
views found an avid entrepreneur as well as photographer in Adolphe Braun.
With studios in both Paris and Alsace, he was not only a prolific
view-maker, but a large-scale publisher who supplied prints in a variety
of formats—stereoscope to panoramic—to subscribers in England, France,
Germany, and the United States. Responding to the imperial desire to make
Alsatians aware of their French heritage, Braun first photographed the
landscape and monuments of this province and then went on to make more
than 4,000 images of Alpine, Black Forest, and Vosges mountain scenery,
eventually printing in carbon instead of albumen in order to insure print
stability. Braun's views, of which Lake Steamers at Winter Mooring,
Switzerland (pi. no. 119) is an outstanding example, display a skillful
blend of information and artistry but also present the landscape as
accessible by the inclusion of human figures or structures.
117. AUGUSTE -ROSALIE BISSON. Passage des Echeles (Ascent of Mi.
Albumen print. Bibliothequc Nationale, Paris.
(1826 - 1900) was a French photographer, active from 1841 to the year of
his death, 1900.
He was born and died in Paris and was the son of the heraldic painter,
He is known as the first person that took pictures from the summit of Mont
Blanc in summer 1861.
Auguste Rosalie Bisson. The Ascent of Mont Blanc, 1862
118. CHARLES SOULIER. Gorge of the Tamine, c. 1865.
Albumen print. Collection Gerard-Levy, Paris.
119. ADOLPHE BRAUN. Lake Steamers at Winter Mooring, Switzerland, c.
Carbon print. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
England, too, had landscapists
with an authentic respect for what the collodion process could accomplish,
but government patronage was limited to royal acclaim and, at times,
purchase of individual images by members of the royal family, with
documentations of the countryside and historical monuments initiated by
photographers themselves or by private publishers rather than by the
state. Fenton, the commanding figure in English photography before his
retirement in 1862, had made calotypes of architectural monuments in
Russia in 1852. He changed to collodion in 1853, and after his return from
the Crimean War (see Chapter 4), he had another traveling darkroom
constructed to facilitate making views of rugged rocks, mountain gorges,
waterfalls, and ruins—romantic themes to which thee British turned as
industrialization advanced. Contemporary critics on both sides of the
Channel considered his landscapes to have reached the heights to which
camera images could aspire, especially with respect to capturing
atmosphere and a sense of aerial perspective. However, because Fenton
refused to combine negatives or do handwork, images with strong geometric
pattern, such as The Terrace and Park, Harewood House (pi. no. 120), were
criticized as offensive. A number of Fenton's landscapes were published as
stereographs in The Stereoscopic Maagazine, as photoengravings in
Photographic Art Treasures and as albumen prints in albums and books
devoted to native landscape—these being the forms in which scenic images
found an audience in the 1850s and 60s.
Albumen prints became popular as
book illustration between 1855 and 1885 when, it is believed, more than a
thousand albums and books, sponsored by private organizations and public
personalities, were published, mainly in England, Scotland, France, India,
and the United States. Original photographs provided artistic,
biographical, historical, and scientific illustration as well as
topographical images to supplement and enhance texts on a wide variety of
subjects. Even the small, relativety undetailed stereograph view was
considered appropriate to illustrate scientific and travel books; one of
the first to use the double image in this manner was C. Piazzi Smyth's
Teneriffe, which appeared in 1858 with 18 stereograph views of the barren
island landscape where Smyth and his party conducted astronomical
experiments. It was soon followed by The Stereoscopic Magazine, a monthly
publication that lasted five years and included still lifts and land- and
cityscape stereographs. The success of illustration with photographic
prints of any kind may be ascribed to their fidelity and cheapness and to
the relative rapidity with which paper prints could be glued into the
publication, while the decline of this practice was the result of even
more efficient photomechanical methods that made possible the printing of
text and image at the same time.
Wales and Scodand provided other
English photographers besides Fenton with localities for wilderness
images, among them Francis Bedford who made GlasPwil Cascade (pi. no. 122)
in 1865. In common with many landscapists of the period, Bedford issued
stereographs as well as larger-format views because they were inexpensive
and in popular demand. However, it was the Scottish photographer Wilson,
probably the most successful of the view publishers, who is believed to
have had the world's largest stock of scenic images in the 1880s (pi. no.
121). Interested also in instantaneous pictures (see Chapter 6), Wilson
noted that "considerable watching and waiting is necessary before the
effect turns up which is both capable and worthy of being taken." Using a
tent darkroom in the field to prepare the exposures, this meticulous
former portrait painter employed over 30 assistants in his Aberdeen
printing establishment to carefully wash and gold-tone the prints in order
to remove all chemical residue. As a con-sequence, Wilson albumen prints
are of greater richness and stability than was usual for the era. Other
British landscapists of the collodion era included Frith, William England,
and James Valentine whose successful enterprise in Dundee, Scotland,
turned out views similar to those by Wilson. While competently composed
and well-produced, the absence of atmosphere and feeling in commercial
views were contributing factors in the endeavors that began in the 1870s
to fashion a new aesthetic for landscape photography.
120. ROGER FENTON. The Terrace and Park, Harewood House, 1861.
Albumen print. Royal Photographic Society Bath, England.
121. GEORGE WASHINGTON WILSON. The Silver Strand, Loch Katrine, c.
Albumen print. George Washington Wilson Collection, Aberdeen University
122. FRANCIS BEDFORD. Glas Pwll Cascade (Lifnant Valley), 1865.
Albumen print. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
Similar ideas about landscape
motivated German view-makers of the 1850s and '60s. Outstanding calotype
views had been made in the early 1850s by Franz Hanfstaengl and Hermann
Krone, before these individuals changed to collodion. Krone, the more
versatile of the two, who advertised his Photogmphisches Institut in
Dresden as a source for scenic views and stereographs as well as
portraits, was commissioned by the crown to produce views of the
countryside and cityscape throughout Saxony, which resulted in the
appearance in 1872 of his Komigs-Album der Stadte Saehsens (King's Album
of Saxon Cities) to celebrate the golden wedding anniversary of the rulers
of Saxony. Though less idealized than some, these views of Dresden and its
natural environs, exemplified by Waterfall in Saxon Switzerland (pi. no.
123), still reflect the romantic attitude of the view painters of the
early 19th century. Romanticism also suffuses Bridge Near King's Monument
(pi. no. 124), an 1866 image by Vogel, but the focus of this work is light
and not locality. In a still different vein, studies of forest foliage and
trees (pi. no. 125) made in the mid- to Iate-186os and typified by the
work of Gerd Volkerling suggest the influence of the Barbizon style of
Landscape photography developed in
the Scandinavian countries in the 1860s and '70s in response to the
tourism that brought affluent British and German travelers to the rocky
coasts of this region in search of untamed nature. Photographers Marcus
Selmer of Denmark, Axel Lindahl and Per Adolf Thoren of Sweden, and the
Norwegians Hans Abel, Knud Knudsen, and Martin Skoien, all supplied good
souvenir images to voyagers who, there as elsewhere, wished to
individualize their recollections with picturesque travel images. The most
dramatic of these views—the mist-shrouded mountains and tormented ice and
rock formations (pi. no. 126) captured by Knudsen during his 35 or so
years as an outstanding scenic photographer—reflect the prominent
influence of the German Romantic style of landscape painting in that they
not only serve as remembrances of places visited but encapsulate a sense
of the sublime.
123. HERMANN KRONE. Waterfall in Saxon Switzerland, 1857.
Albumen print. Deutsches Museum, Munich.
124. HERMANN VOGEL. Bridge near King's Monument, 1866.
Albumen print. Agfa-Gevaert Foto-Historama, Cologne, Germany.
125. GERD VOLKERLING. Oak Trees in Dessau, 1867.
Albumen print. Agfa-Gevaert Foto-Historama, Cologne, Germany.
126. KNUD KNUDSEN. Torghatten, Nordland, c. 1885.
Albumen print. Picture Collection, Bergen University Library, Bergen,
Landscape photographs of Italy
were made almost exclusively as tourist souvenirs. A continuing stream of
travelers from northern Europe and the United States ensured an income for
a group of excellent foreign and Italian photographers. Here, especially,
the romantic taste for ruins was easily indulged, with most images
including at least a piece of ancient sculpture, building, or garden. As
photography historian Robert Sobicszek has pointed out, because Italy was
seen as the home of civilization, early photographers were able to infuse
their views with a sense of the romantic past at almost every turn. In
Grotto of Neptune, Tivoli (pi. no. 127), taken in the early 1860s, Robert
MacPherson, a Scottish physician who set himself up as an art dealer in
Rome, captured the strong shadows that suggest unfathomable and ancient
mysteries while fashioning an almost abstract pattern of tonalities and
textures. Interest in romantic effects is apparent also in Night View of
the Roman Forum (pi. no. 128) by Gioacchino Altobelli, a native Roman who
at times collaborated with his countryman Pompeo Molins on scenic views.
Altobelli, later employed by the Italian Railroad Company, was considered
by contemporaries to be especially adept at combining negatives to
recreate the sense of moonlight on the ruins—a popular image because of
the touristic tradition of visiting Roman ruins by night.
The best known by far of the
Italian view-makers were the Brogi family and the Alinari brothers; the
latter established a studio in Florence that is still in existence. Like
Braun in France, the Alinari ran a mass-production photo-graphic
publishing business specializing in art reproductions, but their stock
also included images of fruit and flowers and views of famous monuments
and structures in Rome and Florence. In the south, Giorgio Sommer, of
German origin, began a similar but smaller operation in Naples in 1857,
providing genre scenes as well as landscapes. In Venice, tourist views
were supplied by Carlo Ponti, an optical-instrument maker of fine artistic
sensitivity that is apparent in San Giorgio Maggiore Seen from the Ducal
Palace (pi. no. 129), made in the early 1870s. Given the long tradition in
Italy of vedute—small-scale topographical scenes—it is not surprising that
camera views of such subject matter should so easily have become
accomplished and accepted.
Other European nations on the
Mediterranean such as Spain and Greece, while renowned for scenic beauty
and ruins, were not documented with nearly the same enterprise as Italy,
probably because they were outside the itineraries of many 19th-century
travelers. The best-known photographs of Spain were made by Charles
Clifford, an expatriate Englishman living in Madrid, who was court
photographer to Queen Isabella II. Working also in other cities than the
capital, Clifford photographed art treasures as well as landscapes and
architectural subjects; his view The Court of the Albambra in Granada (pi.
no. 130) suggests a sense of sunlit quietude while still capturing the
extraordinary richness of the interior carving. As one might anticipate,
views of Greece, particularly the Acropolis, were somewhat more common
than of Spain and also more commonplace. Photographed by native and
foreign photographers, the most evocative are by James Robertson, Jean
Walther, and William Stillman, an American associated with the British
Pre-Raphaelites who had turned to photography as a result of
disappointment with his painting. Stillman's images, published in 1870 as
The Acropolis of Athens Illustrated Picturesquely and Architecturally (pi.
no. 131), were printed by the carbon process, which in England was called
127. ROBERT MACPHERSON. Grotto of Neptune, Tivoli, 1861.
Albumen print. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
128. GIOACCHINO ALTOBELLI. Night View of the Roman Forum, 1865-75.
Albumen print, nrernational Museum of Photography at George Eastman House,
129. CARLO PONTI. San Giorgio Maggiore Seen from the Ducal Palace,
Albumen print. Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Mass.
130. CHARLES CLIFFORD. The Court of the Alhambra in Granada. c. 1856.
Albumen print. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
131. WILLIAM STILLMAN. Interior of the Parthenon front the Western
Carbon print. Photograph Collection, New York Public Library, Astor,
Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.