Practical assignment (Research and analysis) pt.2
Pick three events in the timeline from this week’s lesson History of Photography: An Introduction, and find photographs of the event on the Internet or in the library and write a paragraph explaining the event in more detail. Include your photographs in the description.
How did dry plate photography differ from wet plate ? (learn more about the wetplate photography workflow here! Wet Plate!
It turns out there were a lot of differences and they were in everyone’s favor because Wet Plate photography, while beautiful was extremely difficult to control and master.
First of all it was inconvenient because once begun, from coating the glass to developing had to be done quickly or the entire process would be worthless, apparently everything had to be done in less than 10 minutes to succeed.
What if you are outside? Well, you would make portable darkrooms, little black boxes that you had to haul around big enough to open the camera without exposing it to any blue light and develop it. Quite cumbersome and taxing.
Also the silver bath was a problem as with time it would become ineffective and you would fail in creating a picture at all, wasting time and resources. And on top of all that, due to the processes limited spectrum of sensitivity, almost all variations of tone would be muddy, bright happy things would become morbid and dark.
”Another difference was apparently that the wet plate photographer could be identified by the black stains on their hands while the dry plate man was clean. Certainly the unrestored wet plate cameras I have seen looked pretty grubby. But then again maybe it was the assistant who had the black stained hands and the main man stayed clean.” -Colin Carron
So there were a lot of obstacles to endure for this antiquated method of capturing light time and form. While some photographers still use the process for it’s authentic appeal a newer process was developed called Dry Plate Photography.
During the reign of wet plate photography many photographers and scientists tried to come up with ways to streamline the process and make the development process less grueling…with little success. Little success that is until a fellow name Richard.Leach Maddox came along.
Maddox was a photographer himself but was primarily a physician who dealt often with photomicrography (what it sounds like, micro photography) but being exposed to the noxious vapors of wet plate photography and becoming ill, he decided to come up with something better. In 1871 he ended up streamlining his process by developing a substitute to collodion solution – cadmium bromide and silver nitrate suspended in, get this – regular old gelatin.
Imagine how infuriated this made all the former scientists and photographers, many of whom were prominent in their field, that the answer all along was to suspend the difficult substance in something all their wives had in their kitchen cabinet.
Either way the process revolutionized photography, made the process much easier for the photographer, less messy, much more effective and cheaper. More importantly it changed cameras themselves since the dry plates could be stored and used when they were needed and the plate didn’t need to be developed right away, this lead to two important results, quicker snapshots and smaller cameras that could be handheld. Things like mini cameras, action cameras and later the development of cinematography are all due to Maddox’s invention, a true gamechanger for photography.