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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Bob Bolton BS: Civil war photo question (50) RE: BS: Civil war photo question 18 Jun 13

G'day Rapparee,

The American Civil War ... and sundry other stoushes over tge next few decades were, indeed done on wet collodion emulsions. These were poured, only moments before, onto glass plates, in a mobile darkroom ... often, in the field - especially war zones. These were raced out to the waiting ... focussed, 'stopped down', composed camera ... immediately exposed and the dark slide raced straight back into the dark room / waggon and dropped straight into the developing tray.

This was essential as the emulsion lost most of its sensitivity if it dried out. (That was the only part of the process that required such rapid stages ... but many field photographer themn further endangered their lives by (needlessly) 'fixing' in a very rapid solution: sodium cyanide ( ... instead of the safer, if rather slower, sodium thiosulphate. Wet Plate photographers. on any commercial scale - certainly in such war-time conditions tended to die before their fifth decade!

The three photographers mostly connected with the important Australian "Holtermann Photos", from the 1870s goldfields of New South Wales, eastern Australia ... even without the risks of warfare conditions, died at: Beaufoy Merlin at 32 years, Charles Bayliss at 38 years ... and, Bernard Otto Holtermann himself, on his 38th birthday!

As a (past professional) photographer for decades ... and now a photo archivist ... still working in my 68th year ... I can say "thank God it's a much safer game today!



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