The following is a presentation by Thomas Sutton detailed in the British Journal of Photography August 1867 . Thomas Sutton was a prominent character in the 1850s photographic scene and the Editor of the Monthly Journal Photographic Notes which is a rich source of information. Sutton was an excellent photographer in all aspects of the art , he was considered highly opinionated but also very changeable because these opinions changed on a monthly basis ! Love him or loath him he is an interesting character worthy of study and the following is both entertaining and informative.

 

REMINISCENCES OF AN OLD PHOTOGRAPHER.*

The Secretary of your Society having done me the honour to invite me to prepare a paper to be read at one of your meetings, and having left it to myself to choose the subject, it has occurred to me that it may amuse you to hear some of the reminiscences of my photographic expe riences during the last five-and-twenty years of my pursuit of a hobby in which we take a common interest. My experience of matters photographic dates from the year 1841, and therefore from shortly after the discovery of the new art-science. In that year I remember having my Daguerreotype portrait taken by M. Claudet, on the roof of the Adelaide Gallery. I was seated, one sultry summer afternoon, at about three o'clock, in the full blazing sunshine, and after an exposure of about a minute the plate was developed, and fixed with hypo. My eyes were made to stare steadily at the light until the tears streamed from them, and the portrait was, of course, a carica ture. It has since faded. I paid a guinea for it. M. Claudet himself superintended the pose, and an assistant, a mere youth, prepared and developed the plate. There was on the roof of the building a studio of blue glass, the use of which had been abandoned because the blue glass was not found to shorten the exposure ; so I was posed outside. In some conversation with M. Claudet about the wonderful art which he practised, he informed me, with the utmost gravity, that to achieve anything like success or eminence in it required the chemical knowledge of a Faraday, the optical knowledge of a Herschel, the artistic talent of a Reynolds or Rembrandt, and the indomitable pluck and energy of a Hannibal ; and under these circumstances he strongly dissuaded anyone from taking it up as an amusement. I thought of the assistant who had really executed the practical part of taking my picture. I smiled at the principal's pompous and discouraging observations, and I determined one day to try my own hand at photography.

A few weeks after that event I paid my first visit to Jersey, for a brief holiday. There I fell in love with the island, but more particularly with St Brelade's Bay; and there I happened to make the acquaintance of a youth of my own age, who had Daguerreotype apparatus, and was amusing himself with taking views over the town and harbour of St. Helier's. His plates were simply iodised, and were not fixed with gold. They measured about 6x4 inches. He showed me all the secrets of his manipulation, and I left Jersey with the firm intention of making a hobby of photography as soon as an opportunity should offer. Then followed my Cambridge life ; and during the first long vacation I bought a Daguerreotype apparatus. The complete outfit cost me about £30. Some of it is still in existence. It was made by Mr. Clark, an optician in the Strand. A more wretchedly planned affair can hardly be conceived. The dark slide had no shutter, but the plate was inserted in a box with a lid, which had to be removed and replaced with your hands under a black cloth. The lens was a double combination, very like those in present use. My success at that time was not by any means encouraging ; but one day, when I went to Mr. Clark for advice in some difficulty, he showed me a large calotype portrait which he had himself taken, and which induced me to abandon silver plates in favour of paper. So I bought a copy of Mr. Bingham's very clever little book on photographic manipulation, and commenced trying in succession the various calotype, ferrotype, cyanotype, etc.  processes which it contains. But in none of these was I more successful than in the Daguerreotype ; and my Cambridge studies, and the subsequent cares of married life, compelled me to lay photography aside for some years. In the mean time I had bought a piece of land and built the cottage in Jersey which I now occupy. One day, about the time of the first Great Exhibition, I saw in a shop window of St. Helier's some calotype views of the town which struck me as singularly good . They were taken by a naval instructor named Laverty, a very intelligent fellow ; and I was informed by the proprietor of the shop (Mr. Charles Le Feuvre, the present publisher or my Photographic Notes), that that gentleman was endeavouring to form a class of twelve pupils, to whom he would deliver a course of six practical lectures on the calotype process, at one guinea from each pupil tor the course. I at once put down my name for instruction, and shortly after the lectures began. Mr. Laverty taught us the whole art and mystery of preparing calotype paper by the single wash, exciting it with weak gallo-nitrate of silver, and developing with the same — the various solutions being applied by means of a tuft of cotton wool inserted within a glass tube. His printing process was by the gallic acid development upon albumenised paper. All this was very interesting, and most of his pupils succeeded in following out his instructions. He subsequently taught me a method of sun-printing, and toning with sulphide of ammonium, which produced some permanent but many faded prints.

I was now an established calotypist, and with leisure to follow up the agreeable hobby. I went in at it with great enthusiasm, built a dark room, and took many views of Jersey, which were not inferior to those which had originally struck my attention in Mr. Le Feuvre's window. I would observe that Mr. Laverty had received instruction in the art from its greatest master at that time, Mr. Bingham. In the autumn of 1851, I left my house in Jersey for a year, and went with my wife and little son to Italy, armed with a 12 x 10-inch folding camera, and three double dark slides made by Knight, of Foster-lane— ' 

* Read it a meeting of the Edinburgh Photographic Society, August 21, 1867.

very capital apparatus— and with chemicals necessary for taking numerous views of the interesting places which I intended to visit. It was not, however, until we reached Florence, that I began to work at photography. Paris, Dijon, the Jura mountains, the Lake of Geneva, the Pass of the Simplon, the Lago Maggiore, Como, Milan, the Maritime Alps, Genoa, Leghorn, and Pisa, were all passed and visited in a state of photographic inactivity ; but in the city of Michael Angelo, Galileo, and the Medici, the . fit for calotyping came strong upon me ; and in Florence, where we rested for a couple of months, I unpacked my para phernalia and set to work. Everything went on beautifully. There was no hitch. Negative after negative came out well. 1 was enchanted with my work, and rapidly filled my portfolio. Amongst the most curious negatives taken was one of the dome of the Cathedral, the point of view being the summit of the lofty Campanile of the same building. That magnificent dome ranks in magnitude and majesty with those of St. Peter s and the Pantheon at Rome. My view of it appeared to have been taken from the car of a balloon, from the great height of the hori zon, and the extraordinary extent of view. These negatives were all clean and dense, and printed beautifully. In taking them I experienced the infinite pleasure there is in success. In our way from Florence to Rome, by the route of Perugia, Spoleto, and Narni, travelling some thirty miles a day in a voiture, I took many views, all of the same quality as at Florence ; but on arriving at the Eternal City my stock of nitrate of silver was exhausted, and with the new stock, which I bought of a chemist in the Corso, everything went wrong. For a time I was in despair ; but things came right again by recrystllising the impure and acid salt. At Rome I made the acquaintance of the celebrated photographers Flacheron and Macpherson. The former was at that time one of the groat champions of the calotype, and he, with perfect disinterestedness and good nature, initiated me into all his secrets. His process was that of  M Blanquart-Evrard, as given in that gentleman's Traite de Photographie sur Papier. It was a wet process, but gave singularly fine results. Flacheron printed upon cardboard, and toned with hypo, to which acetic acid was added. His prints mostly faded. His negatives were taken upon a very thin Hollingworth's paper, of which he was kind enough to give me a good supply. At that time Mr. Macpherson was beginning to practice the albumen process upon glass ; and one evening, when in his company, I was shown a print from a collodion negative. I was greatly interested in Mr. Macpherson's operations, and in watching his gradual improvement, day by day, in his process, until he achieved that splendid success which raised him to the rank of the first photographer in Rome. Still I preferred paper for artistic qualities, and held fast by Flacheron and the calotype ; nobody's printing, however, at that time, satisfied me. I forgot to mention that, when at Florence, I made the acquaintance of the Chevalier Iller, a very first-rate Daguerreotypist, and he, like Flacheron, was kind enough to initiate me into the arts and mysteries of his manipulation. On my return to England I selected from the large number of nega tives which I had taken in Italy about a hundred of the best, which I submitted to the criticism of Mr. Joseph Cundall, of Bond-street, and that gentleman at once ordered a dozen prints from each. The question became should I do these myself, or get them done by a professional printer? Having no other occupation, I determined to do them myself.

This determination involved me in a new operation, and an incredible amount of excruciating annoyance. Months rolled on, and still the order remained unexecuted. And why? The reason was this. A friend in Jersey happened at that time to be a subscriber to M. Blanquart-Evrard's Album Photographique, which he received regularly every month, his copy of the work containing four exquisitely printed subjects, beautifully mounted. The peculiar style of printing enchanted me. 1 fell in love at first sight with its rich, deep velvety tones, to which nothing in pictorial art seems to approach, and com pared with which prints upon albumenised paper seemed intolerably vulgar. I therefore gave up that process at once and turned to plain paper. For months and months I could not satisfy myself, and at last in a state of despair I wrote to M. Blanquart-Evrard and offered him £100 for his secret. He very politely declined my offer, and informed me at the same time that he had refused a similar offer from Prince Albert. So I set to work again, and at length discovered that his prints were produced by development— in fact by the process which I had learnt from Laverty, but without the albumen, and with some important modifications. This new method of printing I at once published in a shilling pamphlet, and the result was that the Prince suggested to me to conduct printing operations commercially by the process described, at the same time offering to give his patronage and support to the undertaking. Situated, however, as I then was, it was impossible for me to act on such a suggestion, even from a princely mind, without aid, and in this {dilemma I applied again to M. Blan quart-Evrard. He consented to take me into partnership with him in his own operations at Lille, and to initiate me at once into all the mysteries of his process. Imagine my delight. I started at once to introduce myself to my new friend, and as it happened made his acquaintance on my birthday. That was the happiest birthday I ever spent.

My acquaintance with M. Blanquart-Evrard led in a few months to my starting and editing the Photographic Sotts, a journal which has now lived and prospered for twelve years. But at this point of my reminiscences I fear I must stop, or your patience, gentlemen, will become exhausted by so many personal details. After my essays at calotyping and printing followed the collodion pro cesses, wet and dry, and the optical researches which led to the invention of the panoramic lens, triplet, deep meniscus, etc. These reminiscences I must reserve for another occasion, when possibly you may be inclined to listen to the continuation of my story of the ardent prosecution of a new and favourite hobby. Should you ever be at a loss for a paper for a meeting, and should nothing better occur to you, it will afford me great pleasure to supply you with the remainder of this narrative, the best part of which is, I believe, to follow,

T. Sutton.

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