History of Photography
History of Photography
A World History of Photography
The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991
PHILIP HENRY DELAMOTTE
EDOUARD DENIS BALDUS
PHILIP HENRY DELAMOTTE
ANDREW J. RUSSELL
ALBERT SANDS SOUTHWORTH
JOSIAH JOHNSON HAWES
GEORGE N. BARNARD
OBJECTS AND EVENTS
Let him who wishes to know what war is look
at this series of illustrations.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1863
NEARLY ALL CAMERA IMAGES that deal with what exists in the world may be
considered documents in some sense, but the term documentation has come to
refer to pictures taken with an intent to inform rather than to inspire or
to express personal feelings (though, of course, such images may answer
these needs, too). The materialistic outlook of the industrialized peoples
of the 19th century, their emphasis on the study of natural forces and
social relation-ships, and their quest for empire promoted the
photo-graphic document as a relatively unproblematical means of expanding
knowledge of the visible world. Depictions of topography and architecture
(addressed in the previous chapter); of the physical transformation of
city and country-side; of wars, uprisings, revolutions, and natural
disasters; of sociological and medical conditions and oddities—all were
considered by intellectuals, scientists, artists, and the generis public
to be eminently suitable themes for camera images. The photograph was
regarded as an exemplary record because it was thought to provide an
objective—that is, unaltered—view of solid fact and achievement. This
faith in the capacity of light to inscribe truth on a sensitized plate,
which lay behind the acceptance of camera documentation, was given its
most persuasive verbal argument by the American Oliver Wendell Holmes,
whose contributions to the popularization of stereography have been
mentioned earlier. Suggesting that the "perfect photo-graph is absolutely
inexhaustible," because in theory everything that exists in nature will
be present in the camera image (in itself a dubious statement), Holmes
also felt that incidental truths, missed by participants in the actual
event, would be captured by the photograph and, in fact, might turn out to
be of greater significance. As "form divorced from matter" but mirroring
truth, documentary photographs were believed to be such accurate catalogs
of fact that they were surrogates of reality. Specific temporal meanings
might be obscure, contextual relationships unexplained, but these images,
which by a miracle of technology had found their way into stereo-scopes
and picture albums far removed in time and place from die actual object or
event, increasingly became the data to which the public turned for
knowledge of complex utructures and occurrences. According to the American
art historian William M. Ivins, Jr., "The nineteenth century began by
believing that what was reasonable- was true, and it wound up by believing
that what it saw a photograph of, was true."
The need for pictorial documentation had been recognized even before
the invention of photography. In the 1830s and '40s, publishers of
periodicals in Europe sought to enliven informational texts with graphic
illustrations directed to a diversified mass audience. The Penny Magazine,
an early starter in London, was followed by the Illustrated London News,
L'Illustration in Paris, Illttstrierte Zeitung in Leipzig, and, in the
United States, Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper.
To make good their promise to present a living and moving panorama of the
world's activities and events, these journals began in the 1850s to use
the photographic document as a basis for graphic imagery. The need to
translate photographs quickly into wood engravings to meet publication
deadlines led to the practice of dividing up an illustration into sections
and farming out the parts to a number of woodblock engravers, after which
the pieces were reassembled into a unified block for printing. In 1857,
George N. Barnard invented a process whereby the collodion negative could
be printed directly onto the block, bypassing the artist's drawing and
incidentally substituting a more realistic facture, which the engraver
then endeavored to represent. Until the 1890s, when the printing industry
began to use the process halftone plate, documentation based on
photographs reached the public in several forms—as original albumen,
carbon, or Woodbury-type prints (stereograph and other formats), as
lantern slides, or transformed by engravers and lithographers into graphic
illustrations for the publishing industry.
Photographic documentation might be commissioned by the government
(primarily in France and the United States), by private companies and
individuals, or by publishers. Albumen prints, more sharply defined and
easier to produce in large numbers than calotypes, were organized into
presentation albums made up for selected individuals and governing bodies,
while thousands upon thousands of stereographs reached mass audiences
through the sale and distribution activities of companies such as T. & E.
Anthony in New York, the Langenheim brothers' American Stereoscopic
Company in Philadelphia, the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company,
Gaudin in Paris, and Loescher and Petsch in Germany.
Camera Documentation: Industrial Development
"Objective" documentation by camera coincided with the physical
transformation of industrialized countries during the mid-i9th century.
The role played by photography in the campaign to restore the
architectural patrimony of France has been mentioned, but, in addition,
images were commissioned to show the demolition and reconstruction of
urban areas, the erection of bridges and monuments, and the building of
transportation facilities and roads. The industrial expositions and fairs
that were mounted every several years in Britain, France, and the United
States during this period both symbolized and displayed the physical
changes made possible by new technologies and new materials, which were
contrasted with the exotic products of underdeveloped nations. The
directors of the first important exposition, at the Crystal Palace in
London in 1851— the Great Exhibition—were eager to document the event as
well as to display camera equipment and pictures, but the insufficiencies
of Talbot's calotype process limited the effort to a visual catalog of the
exhibits, which was included in Report by the Juries. However, shortly
after the decision was made to rebuild the Crystal Palace at Sydenham,
collodion technique made it possible to document the entire
reconstruction. Photographing weekly for about three years—1851 to
1854—the noted painter-photographer Philip Henry Dclamotte recorded the
rebirth of the glass hall in its new location (pi. no. 170) and the
installation of the exhibits. In itself, the iron structure of Sir Joseph
Paxton's huge pavilion provided interesting shapes and forms, but
Delamottc's obvious delight in the building's airy geometry contributes to
the pleasurable satisfaction these images -rill afford, and indeed this
first record is among the more interesting documentations of the many that
were made of the industrial fairs that followed.
From the 1850s on, the mechanical-image maker frequently was called
u.pon to record other feats served up by the age of mechanization. The
usefulness of such records was demonstrated by the documentation (pi. no.
171) of Isambard Kingdom Brunei's British steamship Great Eastern, an
enormous coal-driven liner capable of carrying 4..000 passengers. The
vivid handling of light, form, and volume seen in views by Robert Howlett
and Joseph Cundall of this "leviathan"—made for the Illustrated Times of
London and the London Stereoscope Company—was praised because it embraced
real rather than synthetic situations. Contrasting these works with
artistically conceived and reenacted studio compositions that were being
turned out at about the same time (see Chapters), critics suggested that
the true measure of camera art was in the sensitive Treatment of
Soon after mid-century, photographers were called upon to record the
building of rail routes in France and the United States, both latecomers
in this endeavor com-pared with Britain. One such commission, initiated by
the French rail magnate Baron James de Rothschild, went to Fdouard Denis
Baldus, who in 1855 and 1859 followed the building of the north-south line
from Boulogne to Paris, Lyons, and eventually to the Mediterranean ports.
These large-format prints, exemplified by Pont de la Mulatiere (pi. no.
172), were made up into "presentation albums," one of which was given to
Queen Victoria; they also were exhibited at the major industrial
expositions where they were ac-claimed for elegant clarity of vision and
superb tonal range. Gallic respect for order and precision also
characterizes an image of engines in the roundhouse at Nevers (pi. no.
173), taken between 1860 and 1863 by the little-known French photographer
A. Collard, whose work for the Departement de Fonts et Cbaussees
(Department of Bridges and Roads) resulted in impressive views that
emphasized the geometric rationality of these structures.
Baldus, whose other commissions included the previously mentioned
reportage on the Rhone floods and a documentation of the building of the
new Louvre Museum was entirely committed to the documentary mode. His
images established the paradigm documentary style of the era in that he
brought to the need for informative visual material a sure grasp of
pictorial organization and a feeling for the subtleties of light,
producing works that transcend immediate function to afford pleasure in
their formal resolution. When increasing commercialization—the need to
mass-produce albumen prints for indiscriminate buyers of stereographs and
tourist images—made this approach documentation financially untenable,
Baldus turned to re-printing his negatives and reproducing his work in
gravure rather than alter the high standards he had set for himself. His
attitude may be compared with that of William England, a highly competent
British photographer who traveled widely to provide his publisher with
images for stereoscopes and albums. As John Szarkowski has pointed out,
England's view of the Niagara Suspension Bridge (pi. no. 174) has
something for everyone—scenery, human interest, an engineering marvel, and
the contrast between old and new means of transportation. Nevertheless,
though well-composed and satisfying as a document, it lacks the inspired
tension that put Baldus's work onto another plane of visual experience,
perhaps because its aim was simply to provide the kinds of information the
public wanted in the clearest fashion.
170. PHILIP HENRY DELAMOTTE. The
Open Colonnade, Garden Front, c. 1853.
Albumen print. Greater London History Library, London.
171. ROBERT HOWLETT (?). The
"Great Eastern" Being Built in the Docks at Millwall, November 30,1857.
Albumen print. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
172. EDOUARD DENIS BALDUS. Pont de
la Mulatiere, c. 1855.
Albumen print. International Museum of Photography at George Eastman
House, Rochester, N.Y.
173. A. COLLARD. Roundhouse on the
Bourbonnais Railway, Nevers, 1860-63.
Albumen print. International Museum of Photography at George Eastman
House, Rochester, N.Y.
174. WILLIAM ENGLAND. Niagara
Suspension Bridge, 1859.
Albumen print. Museum of Modem Art, New York.
The character of new engineering
materials and construction methods that were altering the appearance of
Europe at mid-century seems to have had a special appeal to photographers
called upon to document bridges and railway construction. To select only
one example, Two Bridges (pi, no. 175), a work by Louis Auguste Bisson
whose portrait firm sought to expand with such documentary commissions,
explores the geometries of are and rectangles to enhance the contrast
between the traditional stone of the past and the modern metal span. At
times, fascination with the design properties of construction materials
became so pronounced as to almost obscure the utilitarian purpose of the
structure; in an 1884 image of the building of the Forth Bridge in
Scotland by an unknown photographer (pi. no. 176), the angled beams take
on an animated life of their own, swallowing up the small figures in the
Photographs of industrial activity
that included the work force also were made, although often they were less
formally conceived. Taken for a variety of purposes—as a record of
engineering progress, as material for illustrators —many such records were
not deemed important, with the result that in time the names of the makers
or the particulars of their careers became lost. Yet these images, too,
can exert a spell through a formal structure that converts mundane
activity, such as work, into evocative experience. Few images in either
Europe or the Americas were concerned with the actual conditions of work,
an interest that did not manifest itself photographically until late in
the century (see Chapter 8).
175. AUGUSTE ROSALIE and AUGUSTE
BISSON. Two Bridges, n.d.
Albumen print. Bibliotlieque Nationale, Paris.
176. UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER
(probably Scottish). Construction of the forth Bridge, c. 1884.
Gelatin silver print. Collection Centre Canadien d''Architecture/ Canadian
Centre for Architecture, Montreal.
Fortunately, Europeans did not
heed Holmes's quintessentially American view that the artifacts themselves
might be dispensed with as long as their images remained; intead, their
goal was to disinter and relocate actual objects. Though frequently
wrenched from historical context and incorrectly restored, these works
confirmed a sense of continuous history for Europeans experiencing the
unsettling advance of industrialization. The excavation, transportation,
and restoration of this cultural booty produced some visually stimulating
camera images. Almost even, aspect of industrial Europe's romance with the
past, from the pilgrimage to ancient lands (pi. no. 178), to the
installation of the object in a modern setting (pi. no. 179) was captured
by the camera. And while by mid-century European museums already had
become the repositories of statuary and decorative objects from all over
the ancient world, the growing popular interest in archeology and its
finds must be attributed in some measure to the camera.
Monumental contemporary works of
statuary also provided subjects for photographers intrigued by the
contrast in scale afforded by such pieces. The documentation of the
production of the Statue of Liberty in France, by Albert Fernique (pi. no.
180), and its installation in the United States was just one of a number
of such picturizations of an activity that was going on in other
industrial countries. too. One suspects that the amusing contrast between
the lively figures of the real workmen and the grandiose inertia of the
idealized effigy, seen in this work and also in Alois Locherer's record of
the construction and transport of the mammoth statue Bavaria (pi. no.
181), constituted at least part of the appeal of such images.
178. HENRI Ascending the Great
Pyramid, c. 1878. Phototype from L'Egypte et la Nubie, 1888.
Charles Edwin Wilbour Library of Egyptology, Brooklyn Museum.
179. PHILIP HENRY DELAMOTTE.
Setting up the Cobssi of Rameses the Great, 1853.
Albumen print. Greater London History Library.
180. ALBERT FERNIQUE (?).
Construction of the Statue of Liberty, Workshop View, Paris, c. 1880.
Albumen print. Rare Books and Manuscripts Division, New York Public
Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.
181. ALOIS LOCHERER. Transport of
the Bavaria (Torso), 1850.
Albumen print. Agfa-Gevaert Foto-Historama, Cologne, Germany.
Camera Documentation: United States
Camera documentation of industrial progress in North America differed
significantly from that of Europe, primarily because of America's lack of
historical monument-and its attitude to photography in general. Drawn
largeh from the ranks of graphic artists, mid-century Europcar.
photographers were influenced by attiaides instilled in them about art in
general, but in the "new world" sound academic training in the arts was
limited. With few exceptions, Americans regarded photography as a business
and the camera as a tool with which to record information. Neither poets
nor reformers, many photographers in the United States were unconcerned
with subtleties, endeavoring instead to present material objects in a
clear-cut and competent fashion without involvement in the artistic
effects of light and shade or unusual compositional angles. This said, it
still is curious that in a country so consumed by interest in mechanical
devices, few images that take advantage of the forceful geometry of
engineering structures were made. From the daguerreotype era to the end of
the century, when Americans photographed bridges, railways, machinery, and
buildings—emblems of the growing industrialization of the nation—their
major concern was to be informative rather than inspirational. The choice
of camera position in Brooklyn Bridge Under Construction (by an unknown
photographer) (pi. no. 182) diminishes the scale and beauty of the pylons
in order to direct attention The transformation of Paris from a medieval
to a modern city, ordered by Prefect of the Seine Baron Haussmann (who
took office in 1853), provided an exceptional opportunity for urban camera
documentation. Old buildings and neighborhoods scheduled for demolition
were photographed in collodion in the 1860s by Charles Marville (pi. no.
177). a former illustrator, whose early work in the waxed-papet process
appeared in many of Blanquart-Evrard's publications. These images display
a poignant regard for the character and texture of vanishing ways,
indicating again that documentary records might be invested with poetic
dimension. Working on his own (after recovering from the disappointing
events of 1839, in which his own paper process was suppressed), Hippolyte
Bayard made decorous views of the streets and buildings of Paris (pi. no.
24). In all major cities, the urban milieu offered photographers a chance
to capture the contrast of old and new and also to document aspects of
anonymous street life, producing views that after 1859 were much in demand
by the buyers of stereographs.
182. UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER.
Brooklyn Bridge under Construction, c. 1878.
Albumen print. New-York Historical Society, New York.
177. CHARLES MARVILLE. Tearing
Down the Avenue of the Opera, c. 1865.
Albumen print. Musec Carnavalet, Paris.
Another aspect of Victorian photographic activity concerned the
appropriation of the physical remains of the past. Popular interest in
archeology, initiated in the 18th century with the finds at Troy, Pompeii,
and Herculaneum, was further stimulated by the acquisition of works
unearthed by 19th-century European scholars and diplomats investigating
ancient cultures in Egypt, Greece, and the Near East, often while pursuing
Typical of the many views of this project, the image falls short of
embodying the daring energy which the bridge itself still symbolizes. In
comparison, Canadian William Norman's 1859 photograph of the framework and
tubing of the Victoria Bridge (pi. no. 183) creates an arresting visual
pattern that also is suggestive of the thrust and power of the structure.
As F. Jack Hurley points out, 19th-century photographs of American
industry concentrate on depicting the individuals responsible for "taming,
dominating and bending to their wills ... the vast virginity of the
continent" rather than on the expressive possibilities inherent in
structural and mechanical forms.
However, there are exceptions: in the years following the Civil War,
photographic documentation of the western rail routes—in particular the
construction of track-beds and spans and the laying of rails—resulted in
images of decided visual impact. Inspired by the grandeur of the
wilderness, the photographers, among them Alexander Gardner, Alfred A.
Hart, William Henry Jackson, Andrew Joseph Russell, and Charles R. Savage,
recorded not only actual construction but settlements along the way,
unusual vegetation, geological formations, and Indian tribal life. The
best-known of these images—a work by Russell of the joining of the
cross-continental tracks at Promontory Point, Utah Territory, in 1869 (pi.
no. 184)—is in the mainstream tradition of American documentation, with
workers and dignitaries the focus of the celebratory occasion, but in
other works, typified by Russell's The Construction of the Railroad at
Citadel Rock (pi. no. 185), landscape predominates—the understandable
effect of an attitude that regarded the western wilderness with
near-religious awe. Many of Russell's images emphasize curving rails and
intricately constructed bridge spans, foreshadowing the hand-ling of
similar themes by William Rau, official photographer of the Pennsylvania
and Lehigh Valley railroads at the end of the century. The clean, formal
organization of track-beds and rails in Rau's images (pi. no. 186)
suggests that industrial might had emerged without trauma or exertion—a
view that was to gain ascendancy in visual expressions of machine culture
in the 1920s. As was true of western scenic photographs, railroad images
were sold in stereo-graph and large-format, used to make up presentation
albums, shown in photographic exhibitions, and copied by engravers for the
183. WILLIAM NOTMAN. Victoria
Bridge, Framework of Tube and Staging, Looking in, May, 1859.
Albumen print. Notman Photographic Archives, McCord Museum, McGill
184. RUSSELL. Meeting of the
Rails, Promontory Point, Utah, 1869.
Union Pacific Historical Museum, Omaha, Neb.
185. ANDREW J. RUSSELL. The
Construction of the Railroad at Citadel Rock, Green River, Wyoming,
Albumen print. Western Americana Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and
Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.
186. WILLIAM RAU. New Main Line at
Gelatin silver print. J. Paul Gettv Museum, Los Angeles.
Newsworthy Events and Instantaneous Views
Large-format documentary images required that human figures, when
included, remain still during exposure, as can be seen in the posed stance
of the workers in the Russell photograph. Recording events that were in a
state of flux on this size plate would have resulted in blurring sections
of the image, an effect that 19th-century viewers regarded as a sign of
imperfection. In fact, during the 1840s and '50s, in order to present
occurrences in which there was continuous, if not very rapid, action, it
was necessary to restage the scene, as was done for the daguerreotypes by
Southworth and Hawes taken in the operating room of Massachusetts General
Hospital in 1848 (pi. no. 187). Nonetheless, the inadequacy of the
earliest technology had not prevented daguerreotypists from attempting to
capture images of fires, floods, and storms—catastrophes over which people
have little control but show strong interest in. George N. Barnard was
able to make a daguereotype during an actual conflagration that took place
in Oswego, New York, in 1851 (pi. no. 188). Even after glass plates took
over, however, on-the-spot news photography was difficult because the
photographer had to arrive on the scene armed with chemicals and equipment
to sensitize the plates before they could be exposed in the camera. Luck
obviously played a great role in mid-19th-century documentation of such
events, which frequently were translated into engravings in the
With the perfection during the 1850s of shorter focal-length (41/2 to 5
inches) stereographic cameras, accompanied by the publication in 1856 of
Sir David Brewster's manual on stereography, photography became capable of
freezing certain kinds of action. "Instantaneous" views made in
stereograph format began to appear around 1858; among the earliest in
America was a series taken of long stretches of lower Broadway,
commissioned by the E. and H. T. Anthony Company, of which this street
scene (pi. no. 189) is a typical example. In Great Britain, William
England and George Washington Wilson began to market "instantaneous"
images of crowded street scenes while Adolphe Braun and Hippolyte Jouvin
(pi. no. 190) were involved with the same kind of imagery in France. In
addition to the stereograph cameras produced in all three countries, small
singlelens apparatuses designed to arrest action began to appear (see A
Short Technical History, Part I), but despite these refinements, collodion
technology still was burdensome, preventing action photography of the
sophistication and speed to which modern viewers are accustomed.
187. ALBERT SANDS SOUTHWORTH and
JOSIAH JOHNSON HAWES. Operating Room, Massachusetts General Hospital,
Woman Patient, 1846-48.
Daguerreotype. Massachusetts General Hospital News Office, Boston.
188. GEORGE N. BARNARD. Burning
Mills, Osweao, New Tork, 1851. Daguerreotype.
International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester,
189. EDWARD ANTHONY. New Tork
Street Scene, 1859.
One-half of an albumen stereograpt Collection George R. Rinnan.
190. HIPPOLYTE JOOVIN. Porte St.
Denis, Paris, c. 1860.
Albumen stereograph. Collection Ivan Christ, Paris.