Photography in the 19th Century | Jaipur Public Library Find

I found this editorial on Indian photography in the old newspaper collection at Jaipur Public Library. Reading it reminded me of Tikam Chand’s 150 year old camera near Hawa Mahal.

The Pioneer

December 24, 1881

Indian Amateur Photography

The purchase of prepared dry plates is a delightfully simple matter. An increasing demand and keen competition in the supply has brought quite an embarras de richesse of good plates into the market. Moreover, the prices have been lowered so much that a dozen small plates were often sold three years back at exactly three times the price now asked for a dozen plates of the same size and possessing greatly superior qualities.

There is, however, one precaution to be taken, especially in India, in the purchase of dry plates. I have mentioned before that the present series is based on the use of plates coated with what is known as gelatino-bromide of silver, in other words, with a thin film of gelatine which has been previously impregnated by a process called emulsification, with bromide of silver.  If this thin gelatinous film is damped and exposed to anything like heat, it at once liquefies and runs off the glass plate in a slimy solution. And as heat is popularly supposed to be a not uncommon element in the climate of India, it may be imagined that great care must be taken in dealing with gelatine plates in the hot weather. It is true that, as long as the plate remains dry, there is not difficulty, But this notwithstanding the dissolution of the gelatine during development and the subsequent processes of fixation and drying, is the one serious stumbling-block to the use of gelatine dry plates in India.

In the hot weather, then, one of the three following courses must be pursued. The first is the very obvious one of keeping the plates undeveloped after exposure in the camera until a sufficiently low temperature is available. The second is to lower the temperature by artificial means. The third is to use plates more or less specially prepared for hot weather development. And here I may parenthetically remark that the plan of this series does not include any instructions as to the actual home preparation of dry plates by amateurs. It is not because this is by any means beyond the capacities and resources of amateurs, but because, firstly, the preparation of plates in India is more difficult in India than in England; and secondly, because there are so many varieties of excellent and cheaply-priced ready-prepared plates in the market, that the saving in cost, especially in a working community like Anglo-India, often barely compensates loss of time.

And now let us suppose that the reader has only made selection of a maker and procured from him, say, a gross or any smaller quantity of plates of any given size. The next step is to prepare a room in which they can be transferred to the dark slide, removed from it after exposure in the camera and developed. Until the completion of the last operation, the plates, being very sensitive must not be exposed, except of course in the camera, to any but red or orange light. If the slightest speck of light of any colour at the violet end of the spectrum reaches them, they will be found on development be covered with a black veil known as “fog.” But in a suitable red or orange light the sensitive surface remains unimpaired. Hence the photographer may adopt one of two methods: either he can do all that is required to be done away from white (or as it is technically called, actime) light at night-time, using a lantern or lamp well screened with a red or orange (non-actime) shade, or work during the day time in a room with a red or orange window. There is, perhaps, no better non-actinic medium than the translucent ruby paper and ruby textile fabric (oiled) of R. W. Thomas. These can be obtained from Mr. J. Lyell, Allahabad. The paper costs Re. 1 a sheet; one thickness will do to screen a candle, but two thicknesses should be used over a window through which ordinary daylight passes, In either case the light may be tested; and great care is necessary to exclude even actinic reflections, by leaving a plate out for sometime and then seeing if it will develop cleanly and well. The furniture of the dark room may be sternly simple. A table and a shelf for the bottles come first. A sink and a cistern with a tap are hand when a large amount of work is done, but can be replaced by a jug and a zinc through or a basin.

The plate is conveniently developed and fixed in a dish or tray of glass, porcelain, or ebonite, preference being given to the last in traveling. Porcelaiu and glass dished can be obtained in India from Mr. Lyell, at Allahabad; Messrs. Peake and Allen at Lucknow, and various other firms. A 9-inch by 7-inch dish should be procured for whole plates, a 6-inch by 5-inch for plates 50inch by 4-inch and so on. It is well to have two separate dishes for the two operations of development and fixing. Two glass measures, one being a minim measure, the other as large as required for the development of the plate used, will also be required.

Indian Amateur Photography, The Pioneer, 1881


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