British photographic history

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I came across a blog featuring a fascinating image of London with St Paul's in the background taken in 1844 by Joseph Cundall (1818-1895) (aka Stephen Percy). He was both a Victorian children’s book publisher as well as an early pioneer of photography. Ever eager to 'network', Cundall would provide employment for many of the best artists of the day by using them as illustrators.

Together with Robert Hunt, he started the Calotype Club in 1847. His passion for photography grew when he moved to 168 New Bond Street where he founded The Photographic Institution. He was also a founder member of the Royal Photographic Society of London.

According to the blog, "One day in 1844, twenty-six year old Joseph Cundall walked from his printing shop on Old Bond Street down to the Thames River carrying the box camera he recently designed and built, along with bottles of’ silver nitrate and gallic acid. Once settled on the Blackfriars Bridge, under a black cloth, he painted the chemistry onto some writing paper that had already been treated with silver nitrate and potassium iodide and then, inserted it into the camera. Focusing on St. Paul’s Cathedral in the distance, Cundall opened the lens and made a single exposure.

This calotype (paper negative) was used later to make several positive prints, one of which was given to his friend, optician Richard Willats, who pasted it into an album. That album and what might be the earliest photograph taken by Joseph Cundall is now at Princeton University."

If you're interested in all things London during the Victorian days, there is a database of approximately 9,000 biographical entries on photographic companies and the people who worked within the photographic industry in London during the 19th century, produced in collaboration with English Heritage's National Monuments Record, on this link here.

 

Photo: London in 1844 (J Cundall).

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