History of Photography in Brighton

History of Photography in Brighton

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The TintypePhotograph

Asearly as 1853, a French teacher named Adolphe Alexandre Martin(1824 -1886) had suggested using the newly-invented collodionprocess to produce a direct positive image on a black varnishedmetal plate to provide an aid to engravers who worked on copperand steel. In America, Professor Hamilton L. Smith (1819-1903),picked up on Martin's idea and experimented with making collodionpositive photographs on thin sheets of japanned iron ['japan'was the name given to a glossy black varnish that was baked onto the surface of a material].

InFebruary 1856, Hamilton L.Smith patented the "use of japannedmetallic plates in photography." Two American companies startedthe production of japanned metal plates for photographic pictures.Peter Neff, who held Professor Smith's patent, called hismanufactured plates 'Melainotypes' ("melaino"= dark or black] and his rival Victor Griswold names hisplates 'Ferrotypes' ["ferro" = iron]. By theearly 1860s, the inexpensive photographs which were made on thesethin sheets of iron, were popularly known as ' tintypes.' Therewas no actual tin in the photographic plates, but the word ' tin' was associated with thin sheets of metal and cheapness.

The'tintype' became very popular in the United States duringthe American Civil War period. Thousands of American soldierssent their 'tintype' portraits, which were unbreakable and relativelylight, in the post to their loved ones.

[.ABOVE] A tintype ( ferrotype) portrait of a young mantaken around 1862 in the American Civil War period.

Two American tintypeportraits taken in the early 1870s.

The'Tintype' in England

InEngland in 1856, Daniel Jones, a photographer in Liverpool,together with William Kloen, a commercial traveller fromBirmingham, had proposed the idea of producing photographs onunbreakable material such as metal, but their suggestion was nottaken up by established photographers. When the 'tintype'was introduced from America in the 1860s, professional photographersin England, who were enjoying commercial success with the cartede visite portrait, were reluctant to adopt what they regardedas an inferior product. Very few high street studios offered totake ferrotype photographs. However, 'tintype' photographydid have an appeal for travelling traders who had no previousexperience in photography. The actual process was simple and straightforwardto use, materials and equipment were relatively cheap and, astintypes could be produced quickly, these itinerant traders couldoffer a 'photographic portrait while you wait' service. 'Tintype'photography became the process preferred by street photographers,travelling fairs and beach photographers.

Ferrotype Studios in England

InEngland during the 1860s, the ferrotype or tintypeportrait could not compete with the carte de visite formatwhich dominated the British market. In the early 1870s, Americanphotographic firms made an attempt to popularise the ferrotypeportrait in England. In 1872, Thomas Sherman Estabrooke ofBrooklyn, USA, established a ferrotype studio in London'sRegent Street and, towards the end of the same year, The PhotographicNews published an extract from Edward M Estabrooke's manual,"The Ferrotype and how to make it". A smallnumber of photographic studios in England produced ferrotype portraitsin the 1870s, but they did not threaten the postion of the cartede visite as the most popular form of commercial photography.

Two tintype portraits takenat English Ferrotype studios in the early 1880s

TheAmerican Gem Portrait

Theferrotype process did not involve the use of a negativeand, as in the case of the earlier daguerreotype, onlya single, unique version of a particular image could be produced.Duplicates were not possible. In contrast, a studio producingcarte de visite portraits was able to print dozens of identicalcopies from the glass negative which held the original image.Thecarte de visite format also allowed the photographic portraitto be mounted in a photograph album.

Studioswhich specialised in carte de visite portraits often employedspecial multi-lens cameras that could take up to a dozen pictureson a single photographic plate. In America, in 1860, SimonWing patented a camera that could be used to produce dozensof images on a single iron plate.Wing's "Patent MultiplyingCamera" could take up to 72 tiny portraits on a thin metalplate. The plate could then be cut up with metal shears to producedozens of small pictures measuring 1 inch by 3/4inch ( 2.5 cm x 2 cm ).

Thepostage stamp sized portrait could be mounted on a card of thesame dimensions as a carte de visite and insertred in a regularphotograph album. These tiny ferrotype portraits on speciallydecorated or embossed card mounts became known as "AmericanGems" in Britain.

Inthe late 1870s and early 1880s, American Gem studios appearedin the major towns of England and Scotland. In 1878, JamesFrederick Lowrie established an American Gem studio in London'sFleet Street and in the early 1880s he opened branch studios inLiverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh. A rival photographer,Joshua Jewell, established American Gem studios in Manchester,Bristol and Newcastle.

TheTintype in Brighton

HenryBarrett was born in London in 1842, but in the mid-1870s hewas living in the United States where he probably became familiarwith the ferrotype process. He returned to England withan American wife and a young son and settled in Brighton. Around1880 he was a partner in the firm of Barrett & Upton,which acquired Joe Parkin Mayall's photographic studioat No 6 North Street Quadrant, located at the bottom of QueensRoad. Within a year Henry Barrett was the sole proprietor of theNorth Street Quadrant studio. Henry Barrett produced AmericanGem portraits at his Brighton studio in the early years of the1880s.

An American Gem portraitof a young child taken at Henry Barrett's studio at 6 NorthStreet Quadrant., Brighton ( Courtesy of Brighton's LocalHistory Study Centre ).. [ SEE ILLUSTRATIONAT RIGHT ]

Cabinet An AmericanGem Portrait of a youth iwearing a bowler hat.(c 1880) Theback of the card mount carries a printed label giving thestudio address as No 6 North Street Quadrant. This smalltintype portrait was probably made at Barrett & Upton'sBrighton studio or taken by Henry Barrett himself. ( Courtesyof Brighton's Local History Centre).


Watch the video: The History of Photography in 5 Minutes Edited for the Middle School Classroom (May 2022).