History of Photography
History of Photography
A World History of Photography
The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991
ANTOINE SAMUEL ADAM-SALOMON
SCAR GUSTAV REJLANDER
ANDRE ADOLFHE EUGENE DISDERI
SPENCER Y CIA
ADOLPHE JEAN FRANCOIS MARIN DALLEMAGNE
A PLENITUDE OF PORTRAITS
Portraits on Paper: Collodion/Albumen
For commercial portraitists, Frederick Scott Archer's invention of the
collodion negative seemed at first to solve all problems. The glass plate
made possible both sharp definition and easy duplication of numbers of
prints on paper from one negative, while the awkward chemical procedures
that the wet-plate process entailed were minimized in a studio setting.
Collodion opened up an era of commercial expansion, attracting to the
profession many pho-tographers who resorted to all manner of inducements
to entice sitters—among them elegantly appointed studios; likenesses to be
printed on porcelain, fabric, and other unusual substances, as well as on
paper; or set into jewelry; photosculpture; and the most popular caprice
of them all—the carte-de-visite.
But before public acceptance of paper portraiture was established,
photographers were occupied for a number of years with a half-way process,
in which the collodion glass negative was used to create a one-of-a-kind
image that was less costly than the daguerreotype. While both Talbot and
Archer had been aware that a bleached or underexposed glass negative could
be converted to a positive by backing the glass with opaque material
(paper or fabric) or varnish (pi. no. 53), the patent for this anomaly was
taken out by an American, James Ambrose Cutting, in 1854. Called
ambrotypes in the United States and collodion positives in Great Britain,
these glass images were made in the same size as daguerreotypes and were
similarly treated— hand-colored, framed behind glass, and housed in a slim
case. In an unusual cultural lag, Japanese photographers adopted and used
this technique until the turn of the century, long after it had been
discarded in Europe and the United States. Framed in traditional kiriwood
boxes, the portraits were commissioned by Japanese sitters rather than
intended for sale to foreign visitors.
By the mid-1850s, when this process was supplanting the metal image in
Europe (though not yet in the United States), the case-making industry was
expanding. The earliest daguerreotypes had been enclosed in cases of
papier mache or wood covered with embossed paper or leather and usually
were lined with silk, in Europe and velvet in the United States, when they
were not encased in lockets, brooches, and watchcases. In 1854, the
"union" case was introduced. Made in the United States of a mixture of
sawdust and shellac, these early thermoplastic holders were exported
globally, eventually becoming available in a choice of about 800
different molded designs.
The tintype, even less expensive than the ambrotype (to which it was
technically similar), was patented in 1856 by an American professor at
Kenyon College in Ohio. Like die daguerreotype, it was a one-of-a-kind
image on a varnished metal plate (iron instead of silvered copper) that
had been coated with black lacquer and sensitized collodion. Dull gray in
tone without the sheen of the mirrorlike daguerreotype, the tintype was
both lightweight and cheap, making it an ideal form for travelers and
Civil War soldiers, many of whom were pictured in their encampments by
roving photographers with wagon darkrooms.
The combination of a negative on glass coated with sensitized collodion
and a print on paper coated with sensitized albumen—the collodion/albumen
process— made commercial portraiture possible on a previously undreamed-of
scale, despite the fact that the prints themselves were subject to fading
and discoloration. From the 1850s until the 1880s, studios in the major
capitals of the world invested in ever-more elegant and unusual
furnishings in order to attract a well-paying clientele. As the display of
status through attire and props grew more prominent, the goal of revealing
character became secondary, and portraits often seemed merely to be
topographies of face and body, "dull, dead, unfeeling, inauspicious," as
expressed in the words of the time.
The skillful handling of pose, lighting, props, and decor visible in
the works of the highly regarded European portraitists Franz Hanfstaengl,
Antoine Samuel Adam-Salomon, and Camille Silvy became models for
emulation. Hanfstaengl, already renowned as a lithographer, opened a
photographic art studio in Munich in 1853. He soon won acclaim
internationally for the tasteful poses, modulated lighting, and
exceptional richness of his prints on toned albumen paper, as exemplified
by Man with Hat (pi. no. 54). Hanfstaengl's earlier work—exhibited at the
1855 Exposition Universelle in Paris, where it was criticized for
extensive retouching on the negative—is believed to have inspired
Adam-Salomon to change his profession from sculptor to photographer. The
poses (modeled on antique sculpture) preferred by Adam-Salomon and his
penchant for luxurious fabrics and props appealed to the materialistic
French bourgeoisie of the Second Empire. The photographer's heavy hand
with the retouching brush—the only thing considered disagreeable about his
work—is apparent in the lighter tonality behind the figure in this image
of his daughter (pi. no. 55).
53. Unknown Photographer (American). Untitled Portrait, c. 1858.
Ambrotype with backing partially removed to show positive and negative
Gemsheim Collection, Humanities Research Center, University of
54. FRANZ HANFSTAENGL. Man with Hat, 1857. Salt print.
Foto-Historama, Cologne, Germany.
55. ANTOINE SAMUEL ADAM-SALOMON. Portrait of a Girl, c. 1862.
print. Daniel Wolf, Inc., New York.
Besides attesting to the sitter's status, props and poses could offer
clues to personality, enriching the image psychologically and visually.
The oval picture frame used coyly as a lorgnette and the revealing drapery
in the portrait of the Countess Castiglione (pi. no. 56) by Louis
Pierson, a partner in the Paris studio of Mayer Brothers and Pierson,
suggest the seductive personality of Napoleon Ill's mistress (who was
rumored to be an Italian spy). Oscar Gustav Rejlander's portrait of Lewis
Carroll (the Reverend Charles L. Dodgson—pi. no. 57), which depicts the
author of Alice in Wonderland holding a lens and polishing cloth, suggests
through his expression and demeanor the sense of propriety that Carroll
believed he was bringing to his photography. This work is one of
Rejlander's numerous portraits, which include images of friends as well as
amusing views of himself, his female companion, and the children who
figured in the genre scenes for which he is better known (pl. no. 266).
As studio photography preempted the role of the portrait painter, the
aesthetic standards of handmade likenesses were embraced by the
photographic portraitists. Manuals appeared early in the daguerreotype era
and continued through the collodion period (and into the 20th century),
giving directions for appropriate dress and the correct colors to be worn
to take advantage of the limited sensitivity of daguerreotype and glass
plates. Included also were instructions for the proper attitudes that
sitters should assume when posing. Because the public still believed that
hand-painted portraits were more prestigious than photographs, likenesses
often were painted over in watercolors, oils, or pastels, without entirely
obliterating the underlying trace of the camera image, as in a typical
example (pi. no. 332) from the studio of T. Z. Vogel and C. Reichardt, in
Meanwhile, the professional portrait painter, aware of the public
appetite for exactitude, found the photograph a convenient crutch, not
just for copying the features but actually for painting upon. Projection
from glass positives to canvas was possible as early as 1853; shortly
afterward, several versions of solar projection enlargers—including one
patented in 1857 by David Woodward, a professor of fine arts in
Baltimore—simplified enlargement onto sensitized paper and canvas. When
partially developed, the image could be completely covered with paint—as
X-rays have disclosed was the case in the life-size painted portrait of
Lincoln (pi. no. 58) by Alexander Francois. This practice, common in the
last half of the 19th century, was not considered reprehensible because in
die view of many painters the role of photography was to be the artist's
helpmate in creative handwork. Although such photographic "underpainting''
was rarely acknowledged, the desire for verisimilitude on the part of
painter and public and the hope for artistic status on the part of the
photographer resulted in a hybrid form of portraiture—part photochemical
and part handwork.
56. LOUIS PIERSON. Countess Castiglione, c. 1860.
(previously attributed to Adolphe Braun).
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New
York; David Hunter McAlpin Fund, 1947.
In 1844 Pierre-Louis
Pierson began operating a studio in Paris that specialized in hand-colored
daguerreotypes. In 1855 he entered into a partnership with Léopold Ernest
and Louis Frederic Mayer, who also ran a daguerreotype studio. The Mayers
had been named "Photographers of His Majesty the Emperor" by Napoleon III
the year before Pierson joined them. Although the studios remained at
separate addresses, Pierson and the Mayers began to distribute their
images under the joint title "Mayer et Pierson," and together they became
the leading society photographers in Paris.
Pierson's 1861 photographs of the family and court of Napoleon III sold
very well to the public. Pierson and Leopold Mayer soon opened another
studio in Brussels, Belgium, and began photographing other European
royalty. After Mayer's retirement in 1878, Pierson went into business with
his son-in-law Gaston Braun, whose father was the photographer Adolphe
The Gaze, 1856–57
Albumen silver print
Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York
La comtesse de
La comtesse de Castiglione
Reflet de Miroir de Police Vaurien
Profil dans la glace des deux bras de la Police
57. OSCAR GUSTAV REJLANDER. Lewis Carroll (Rev. Charles L. Dodgson),
Albumen print. Gernsheim Collection, Humanities Research
Center, University of Texas, Austin.
58. ALEXANDER FRANCOIS. Abraham Lincoln, n.d. Oil on canvas.
George R. Rinhart.
Carte-de-visite and Celebrity Portraits
With the possibility of endless replication from the collodion
negative, it was only a matter of time before a pocket-size paper portrait
was devised. Suggestions along this line, made by several photographers in
Europe and the United States, included the substitution of a likeness for
the name and address on a calling card—the traditional manner of
introducing oneself among middle- and upper-class gentry—and the affixing
of small portraits to licenses, passports, entry tickets, and other
documents of a social nature. However, Andre Adolphe Disderi, a
photographer of both portraits and genre scenes who also was active in
improving processes and formulating aesthetic standards, patented the
carte-de-visite portrait in 1854. This small image—3 1/2 x 21/2 inches,
mounted on a slightly larger card—was produced by taking eight exposures
during one sitting, using an ingenious sliding plate holder in a camera
equipped with four lenses and a vertical and horizontal septum (pi. no.
226). A full-length view of the figure in more natural and relaxed
positions became possible, and it was not necessary for each pose to be
exactly the same, as can be seen in an uncut sheet of carte-de-visite
portraits taken by Disderi (pi. no. 59).
The reasons why the carte portraits became so enormously popular after
1859 are not entirely clear, but for a considerable part of the next
decade this inexpensive format captured the public imagination in much the
same way the stereograph view had. Portrait studios every-where—in major
cities and provincial villages—turned out millions of full- and
bust-length images of working and trades people as well as of members of
the bourgeoisie and aristocracy'. These could be sold inexpensively
because unskilled labor cut the images apart after processing and pasted
them on mounts on which trademarks or logos of the maker appeared either
on the front of the card, discreetly placed below the image, or on the
reverse. Frequently, elaborate displays of type and graphic art suggested
the connections between photography and painting. Backgrounds still
included painted gardens, balustrades, drapery swags, and furniture, but
sitters also were posed against undecoratcd walls, and vignetting—in which
the background was removed—was not uncommon. Adults displayed the tools of
their trade, the marks of their pro-fession, and the emblems of their
rank; children were shown with toys; and attention was paid to women's
attire and hair arrangements. Nevertheless, apart from the informality of
pose that imbues some of these images with a degree of freshness, carte
portraits offered little compass for an imaginative approach to pose and
lighting as a means of evoking character.
As their popularity continued, famous works of art, well-known
monuments, portraits of celebrities and of fashionably attired women (at
times pirated and reproduced from other cartes rather than from the
original collodion negative) appeared on the market. That the wide
dispersal of celebrity images had consequences beyor that of a pleasant
pastime can be seen in the fact that already in the 1860s such images
influenced the course of a public career. Both the moderately gifted Jenny
Lind and the unexceptional Lola Montez became cult figures in the United
States largely owing to their promotion through carte portraits. Lincoln
is said to have ascribed his election to the Presidency at least in part
to Brady's carte of him when he still was an unknown, and both the French
and British Royal families permitted the sales of carte portraits of
themselves; on the death of Prince Albert, for example. 70,000 likenesses
of Queen Victoria's consort were sold. Cartes also took over the function
formerly performed by lithographs and engravings in popularizing types of
female beauty and fashionable attire. Silvy, a French photographer of
artistic taste who in 1859 opened a studio in his lavishly decorated
London residence, specialized in posing his upper-class sitters in front
of mirrors so that the softly modulated lighting not only called attention
to attire and hairstyle—fore and aft, so to speak—but surrounded them also
with an aura of luxuriousness.
Cartes were avidly collected and exchanged, with ornate albums and
special holders manufactured to satisfy the demand for gimmickry connected
with the fad. This activity received a boost from the enthusiasm of Queen
Victoria, who accumulated more than one hundred albums of portraits of
European royalty and distinguished personages. Indeed, the British royal
family was so taken with photography that they not only commissioned
numberless portraits but purchased genre images, sent photographs as state
gifts, underwrote photographic ventures, and were patrons of The
Photographic Society; in addition they installed a darkroom for their own
use in Windsor Castle. British and French monarchs staunchly supported
photography in general because it represented progress in the chemical
sciences, which was emblematic of the prosperity brought to their
respective nations, and also because the easily comprehended imagery
accorded with the taste for verisimilitude evinced by the middle class and
their royal leaders.
During the 1860s, portrait studios began to assemble a selection of
individual likenesses on a single print. Produced by pasting together and
rephotographing heads and portions of the torso from individual carte
portraits, these composites paid scant attention to congruences of size
and lighting, or to the representation of real-looking space. Designed as
advertising publicity to acquaint the public with the range and quality of
a particular studio's work, as in this example from the studio of a
portrait photographer in Valparaiso and Santiago, Chile (pi. no. 60), the
format was taken over as a means of producing thematic composites of
political (pi. no. 61) or theatrical figures that might be sold or given
away as souvenirs.
One form of commercial exploitation of portrait photography in Europe
that did not fare as well as cartes was called photosculpture. Invented by
Francois Willeme in France in 1860, this three-dimensional image was
produced by a company whose English branch briefly included the usually
prudent Claudet as artistic director. The procedure necessitated a large
circular studio in which 24 cameras were positioned to take simultaneous
exposures of a centrally placed sitter. These were processed into lantern
slides, projected, and traced in clay (or wood in one adaptation) with a
pantograph, theoretically insuring a head start on exactitude for the
sculptor. Despite royal patronage, photosculpture had a short life,
although every once in a while this gimmick crops up again as an idea
whose time has come.
Editions of prints on paper in sizes and formats other than cartes also
were popular from the 1860s on. Because the problems with albumen prints
mentioned in Chapter I never were completely solved, carbon printing—often
referred to as "permanent"—and Woodburytype reproduction were favored for
the production of celebrity likenesses that appeared in the "galleries"
and albums issued by photographers and publishers in western Europe and
the United States. Well-known examples arc Hanfstaengl's Album der
Zeitgnossen (Album of Contemporary Figures), portraits of German
scientists, writers, and artists; the British Gallery of Photographic
Portraits, undertaken by the studio of Joseph John Elliott and Clarence
Edmund Fry (who encountered refusals from politicians who found their
likenesses too realistic); and the Galerie des contemporaines (Gallery of
Contemporaries)—initiated in 1859 in Paris by Pierre Petit. This project
was a precursor of the highly regarded French series, Galerie
contemporaine, litteraire, artistique (Contemporary Gallery of Writers and
Artists), published intermittently by Goupil and Company between 1876 and
1884, to which all the major portraitists of the period contributed. Less
concerned than most studio portraiture with fashionable decor and dress,
this collection was "physiognomic" in intent—to evoke the character of the
giants of French literar)' and artistic life through pose and expression,
as in the commanding presence projected in Etienne Carjat's portrait of
Victor Hugo (pi. no. 94). Other such publications catered to the taste for
elaborate decor, as in Adolphe Jean Francois Marin Dallemagne's Galerie
des artistes contemporaines (Gallery of Contemporary Artists) of 1866 (pi.
no. 62), a group of 50 portraits of artists shown posing in trompe l' oeil
frames that are suggestive of the conceits of baroque portrait painting.
59. ANDRE ADOLFHE EUGENE DISDERI. Portrait of an Unidentified Woman, c.
Uncut albumen print from a carte-de-insite negative.
Gernsheim Collection, Humanities Research Center, University of Texas.
60. SPENCER Y CIA. Chilean Ladies, n.d. Albumen print.
Neikrug Photographica, Ltd., New York.
61. UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER (American).
Seventy Celebrated Americans Including All the Presidents, c. 1865.
Albumen print. Library Company of Philadelphia.
62. ADOLPHE JEAN FRANCOIS MARIN DALLEMAGNE. Gallery of Contemporary
Artists, c. 1866.
Albumen prints assembled into Galerie des artistes contemporaines.
Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.
The best-known photographer of French intellectual, literary, and
artistic figures during the collodion era is Gaspard Felix Tournachon,
known as Nadar (see Profile). His aim in portraiture was to seek, as he
wrote, "that instant of understanding that puts you in touch with the
model—helps you sum him up, guides you to his habits, his ideas, and
character and enables you to produce ... a really convincing and
sympathetic likeness, an intimate portrait." One example—a portrait of the
young Sarah Bernhardt in 1865 (pi. no. 65)—typifies Nadar's ability to
organize the baroque forms of drapery, a truncated classical column, and
die dramatic contrasts of hair and skin and still suggest character—in
this case both the theatricality and vulnerability of a young actress who
had just achieved her first stage success. As French art critic Philippe Burty wrote of Nadar's entries exhibited at the Sodete Frangaise de
Photographic exhibition in 1859, "his portraits arc works of art in every
accepted sense of the word," adding that "if photography is by no means a
complete art, the photographer always has the right to be an artist."
Nadar's later output included many unexceptional portraits of entertainers
and modishly dressed women, a direction necessitated by the demands of the
middle class for glamorous images that became even more marked when his
son Paul took control of the studio in the late 1880s. The style of Paul
Nadar's portrait of the royal mistress Lillie Langtry (pi. no. 64), like
that of contemporaries such as Charles and Emile Reutlinger (pi. no. 63)
whose firm began to specialize in fashion photography in the same years,
was oriented toward evoking glamour by seductive pose, bland expression,
and attention to elegant attire.
63. REUTLINGER STUDIO. Mlle. Elven, 1883.
Albumen or gelatin silver
print. Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.
64. PAUL NADAR
(1856-1939). Lillie Langtry, n.d.
Gelatin silver print. Bibliotheque
65. NADAR (GASPARD FELIX TOURNACHON). Sarah Bernhardt, 1865.
print. Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.