British photographic history

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Hi all,

I wonder whether anyone could help me better understand this image, from the Horner Collection, Settle (Museum of North Craven Life).

The subject is a Yorkshire photographer, Michael Horner, at work in the field probably mid 1860s, with what I take to be collodion equipment, including a 'dark tent' on a tripod and kneeling with a case or tank(?). I think he may be handling a lens board - which is very possibly for a stereo setup - a collodion stereo view at this location survives in the collection.

Can anyone describe in detail the components and use of the apparatus visible here? I think the case is probably for camera equipment, but what would be in the dark tent - developing/fixing tanks?, anything else?. What are the structures on top of the dark tent - a safe viewing device perhaps, with a red glass window? Anything else I'm missing?

Can anyone point me to contemporary descriptions of collodion practice in the field that would help answer these questions?

Many thanks for any observations/suggestions.

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Hello Damien

I have added a couple of stereoview images showing the collodion apparatus of W Dodgson , of Wigton ,

Hello, I think we are looking at the back of the tent so the little flap or door would be a 'red window' the tall object on top of the tent to the left is probably a water tank.

There is a modern description of an old tent here:

http://www.earlyphotography.co.uk/site/entry_H7.html

Rob

Thanks Graham. That’s a fabulous picture. It would be great to draw together more examples like this to inform our understanding of early practice.
I particularly like the ‘handcart’ that looks like a modified pram, with the chemicals all laid out like an after on tea!
Thanks Rob. A useful description. If only we had an illustrated contemporary account of the equipment in use. Anyone? Next best, are there good descriptions from Rouch, Meagher or others who sold the equipment?

The early manuals are pretty good with descriptions of how to operate the process. A Manual of the Collodion Process would be a good start. I'm a bit busy at work to scan,  but can probably do so at the weekend or you should find a copy (or similar) online. 

Thanks Michael. Helpful and informative - as ever.

Michael Pritchard said:

The early manuals are pretty good with descriptions of how to operate the process. A Manual of the Collodion Process would be a good start. I'm a bit busy at work to scan,  but can probably do so at the weekend or you should find a copy (or similar) online. 

A good manual is "Directions for obtaining both positive and negative pictures upon glass by means of the collodion process, and for printing from the negative glasses on to paper" by T. H. Hennah. This is online at archive.org.

There was not much equipment required, the most important and noticeable was the sensitising bath. A tent would be needed if working away from a studio/dark room. Other than that a pneumatic plate holder was a good idea or a stand to rest the plate on. Inside the tent there was usually a slot for the sensitising bath to drop into, a water tank on the top of the tent and some kind of sink arrangement. Most of the manipulation – coating, developing, fixing was done when holding the plate in the hand or with a pneumatic holder.

There is a summary of the steps involved here: www.earlyphotography.co.uk/site/gloss10.html

Hello - I found this old advert that may be helpful:

Thanks David. That is so interesting. 

Hi Damien,
Where are you based? I'm in Manchester if you fancy popping by the studio, I could show you the wet plate collodion process.

Great image by the way. The tank on top of the portable darkroom would be a water reservoir for washing the developed plate

The safe light window may well have been amber of yellow in the case of wetplate collodion.

And yes there are two lens openings in that lens board, so stereo as suggested.

Best wishes,
Tony

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