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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Hi Tony. That would be great. I’m not far from you. Just half way to Sheffield. I’d love to come and see what you do. It’s always good to inform historical research with real photographic practice!

Thanks for your additional insights on the image I posted. 

All the best.


Tony Richards said:

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,
Just message/email me to arrange a day to pop over.

Thanks Tony. I've sent you a 'friend request' so I can message you. Whereabouts in Manchester are you based?

Just accepted. My studio is in one of the old mills in Ancoats.

Hi Damien,

If you're still interested in the workings of wet plate collodion. Next weekend is the UK collodion meet up at Guys Cliffe House, Warwick. You are more than welcome to pop along and see people working. Saturday would be best.


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