British photographic history

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Could someone tell me why this photograph shows all these spots? Is it a failure of the photographer to process it correctly? What exactly did the photographer do wrong? Many carte de visites I have by the photographers Ferrier and Rock also show this. They can be seen online here at :

William Ferrier was born in Edinburgh on 20 August 1855.

John William Rock was born in Islington, London in 1848.



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Comment by Tony Rackstraw on July 2, 2011 at 8:31
Thanks Michael, the Ferrier and Rock photographs that have this spotting effect come from different sources photographs by other photographers in the same albums not show this. It is mainly the Ferrier and Rock photographs which lead me to think it was something the photographer did. I would go more with they cut corners or overused an exhausted bath and insufficient washing, as you say. Is it possible to work out which caused this effect?
Comment by michaelg on July 2, 2011 at 8:10

Dear John, There are a number of possibilities. One cannot assume it to be the fault of the photographer. Carte-de-Visites subsequently spent most of their life in albums, where the paper and board contain chemical residues which, over time, can migrate into the paper. Albums were often kept in cupboards next to open coal fires which give of various sulphides. Even very small quantities, over time, will attack the silver surface of the image. Another possibility - later members of the family might store albums in the attic where they are likely to be subject to extreme changes in temperature. Not just on an annual basis but even between day and night. Photographers can be blamed if during the final processing they cut corners with the amount of gold they used or sometimes overuse of an exhausted bath and insufficient washing. In this instance it is almost impossible to say. Linneas Tripe's advice was "not to spare the sovereigns"



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