Learning Activity – Delving Deeper Into the History of Photography – week08

Question 1

Practical Assignment (research and analysis):

The Daguerreotype

This was the first commercially successful photography process developed. The photography is produced on a polished copper plate, and it’s highly reflective nature meant that the viewer had to hold the picture in the right angle to see it. It could not be reproduced, and the subject had to sit still for around five minutes.

Ambrotypes and Tintypes

Made onto glass and tin/iron respectivly, these methods were cheaper and made photography available to a broader group of people. It also made the process more mobile and therefore could capture more subjects than the earlier methods.


Kodak made the first camera with film prints inside, making it possible for people to buy their own portable, lightweight camera and take pictures without instructions. Kodak developed the photos for the customers and installed new fresh prints in the camera.

Question 2

Research, written and practical assignment:

For my research and practical assignment, I chose the calotype, relying mainly on «The world history of photography».

Calotype is the first instance where photography became an art form, instead of purely capturing visual scenery. Up until this point, photography was an image made from light reflected on a surface and various methods used to make the image permanent. Calotype, on the other hand, reproduced the subject onto paper, relying on a two-step procedure to do so. The captured image was a negative, that later was made into a positive. This allowed for two new aspects, both advancing photography; it allowed for endless reproduction from one negative to positives, and it also allowed for artistry in the development process. 

William Henry Fox Talbot developed his photographic technique, first called photogenic drawing and made public by the inventor in London, 1839. He was a man of excellent knowledge and education, a man of science. Talbot was also a romantic and loved to draw. Aiming to help the drawing process, he experimented with a transference of objects to a surface, using light and chemically sensitized paper, resulting in a negative. He later developed a technic to make the negative image into a positive.

Calotype didn’t appeal to a broader audience in the same way the Daguerreotype did. The latter was a crisper image with a wide range of contrasts. It was a faster method, and the photos endured for longer. The calotype’s use of paper meant the image was softer than the metallic nature of the Daguerreotype. Where the Daguerreotype gave a predictable result, calotype depended on more unpredictable objectives. The paper’s texture, the chemicals used and the exposure of light all influenced the final product.

However, these limitations are also the strength of the calotype. All these variables meant that the photographer could influence the final result. The editing we now take for granted, and the multiplications of an image we today see everywhere started with Tablot’s invention calotype.

Tablot heavily protected his invention, but some managed to explore the technique further, like David Octavious Hill and Robert Adamson. Their portraits are regarded as some of the most expressive of the time and evoce the rembrantian style Tablot felt his invention created. 

Added are some photos I feel communicate the calotypes invention and appeal:

Salted paper print from calotype. Credit: William Henry Fox Talbot
William Henry Fox Talbot, An oak tree in winter, Lacock
Daguerreotype vs. calotype

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