Julia Margaret Cameron began photographing at age 48, when her daughter and son-in-law gave her a camera for her amusement. She soon made a name for herself with large-format, often allegorical compositions and portraits that defied the conventions of Victorian photography. A typical commercial portrait of the time presented a small standing figure, sharply focused and evenly lit. By contrast, Cameron’s photograph of her niece Julia Jackson concentrates on the subject’s head, showing clearly only limited planes of her face and leaving half of it shrouded in shadow. Known as a great beauty, Jackson was a favorite subject for Cameron, who made dozens of photographs of her. In April 1867, a month before Jackson’s wedding to her first husband, Herbert Duckworth, Cameron photographed the young bride-to-be. With her hair down and eyes wide, she is unsentimental, looking forward with purpose to her own personal and social transformation.
When is an ambrotype not an ambrotype? When it’s a collodion positive.
Most people call collodion positives ‘ambrotypes’, which is technically incorrect. The ambrotype process (patented by an American photographer, James Ambrose Cutting in 1854) was a particular variant of the process which used Canada balsam to seal the collodion plate to the cover glass. These are most commonly found in America.
“Often my photographic process unfolds like a private performance in an empty house, or after everyone falls asleep. My engagement emerges from a perspective that precedes familiarity, disregarding the functions and cultural associations that objects are assigned. I try to process my surroundings with an alien mind.”
Platt D. Babbitt set up a pavilion in front of Point View, later Prospect Point, on the American side of Niagara Falls. From here he photographed tourists taking in the view, without their knowledge, from the 1850s to the 1870s. He would then offer the photographs for sale, providing a lucrative business for himself and giving tourists a chance to own a souvenir of their trip.
Ever wondered how to go about dating your old family photographs? Our Curator of Photographs and Photographic Technology, Colin Harding, shows you how to identify a collodion positive (aka ambrotype) which was the predominant process used in commercial studios from the early 1850s to the 1880s.
A photograph of Mrs Irene Atherton holding lengths of spaghetti prior to canning at a Heinz factory in Standish.
Not quite ‘on this day’ but the Daily Herald were following up on a nationwide spaghetti story. The day before this photograph was taken, the BBC broadcast a classic April Fool item concerning spaghetti ‘harvesting’, including shots of spaghetti apparently growing on trees.