Sunday, June 7, 2015
The process of photography with Lewis Carroll and Julia Margaret Cameron
From his shoulder Hiawatha
This he perched upon a tripod—
First the Governor, the Father:
Gracefully she sat down sideways,
Next the Son, the Stunning-Cantab:
Next to him the eldest daughter:
Last, the youngest son was taken:
Then they joined and all abused it,
Julia Margaret Cameron by Henry Herschel Hay Cameron (later The Cameron Studio)
albumen print, circa 1873, National Portrait Gallery, UK
In a letter from Julia Margaret Cameron to Sir John Herschel, January 28, 1866, she explains, “I work without a single assistant of any kind. I do all alone without any assistance and print also entirely by myself.”
Mrs. Cameron used a development process called the wet-collodion negative process whereby the photographer pours a wet-collodion emulsion from a bottle onto a glass plate, tilts the plate spreading the emulsion. If this emulsion does not spread evenly, you will get a streaked negative. However, if you mistakenly also rub the plate before the emulsion dries, you will see smudges. When you see spots on the final print this is a result of any dust particles or dirt getting on the negative interrupting the final process. Then you expose the negative, process it, dry it, and finally varnish it for protection. This is when you know the glass-plate negative is ready for printing.
When Mrs. Cameron wanted an albumen-print she placed her negative in a print frame where the emulsion side of the negative would come in contact with the emulsion side of the paper. Then she would place the frame outdoors with the negative side up allowing the sunlight to pass through the negative, darkening the albumen paper; making a positive imprint. Once she knows the image is fully-developed remaining light sensitive salts are removed in a bath of hypo which is a clearing agent. Then the print is washed, toned, and dried. Mrs. Cameron was known to trim albumen paper to her desired proportions. She did not always use the same proportions as one can tell from the varied shapes of mounted framed paper. She would then inscribe her name, title of photograph, location, and name of sitter underneath photographic frame.
Julia Margaret Cameron by Unknown photographeralbumen print, circa 1868
(you can see her handwriting below her photographic image)
I found an interesting video demonstrating the Wet Plate Collodion process. Sometimes, there's just nothing better than the visual!
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