The Fine Print: Part 1

The First Visual and The First Print


Madam Daguerre approaches the famous French Chemist Dumas with a concerting question.

‘He (Louis Daguerre), for some time, has been possessed by the idea that he can fix images of the camera. I am afraid he is out of his mind. Do you, as a man of science, think it can ever be done, or is he going mad?’

‘It cannot be done, replied Dumas with certainty. But I cannot say that it will always remain impossible, nor set the man down as mad who seeks to do it.’

7th January 1839, Louis Daguerre ‘s invention was revealed to the French Science Congress and the news made public. It took a certain degree of madness to reproduce an image. He beat Fox Talbot by 18 days and found timeless fame and fortune.

William Henry Fox Talbot, parallelly on the same journey, used his process to picturize his house in the summer of 1835.
“And I believe it is the first instance of a house painting its own portrait.”

On seeing Talbot’s exposition, Michael Faraday remarked ‘No human hand has hitherto traced such lines, as these drawings display: and what man may hereafter do, now that Dame Nature has become his drawing mistress, it is impossible to predict …’

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Darkroom chemicals - Fox Talbot Museum - Wiltshire, England

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Thomas Duncan, 1844 Calotype Print by Hill and Adamson

Lithographic Print

Cyanotype of artificial leavest

How right Faraday was!

Silver Halide took over the photographic process for much of the twentieth century.
Ansel Adams, Minor White, and tens of thousands of others used this process, super refined it and established repeatable standards for the process and very high limits for their work. Through the works of the 19th century and 20 th century photographers, the various genres emerged as we know them today.

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Portrait of Young Hawaiian Girl, toned gelatin silver print, 1909.

Color print made from three direct photograms 1869-1870 by Louis Ducos du Hauro

Van Dyke Brown Print

Ode to Silver Halide

Born of the Earth
Struck by the fire of light
Shaped by the waters of Chemistry
And reflected through the shimmering mirror
Of lens and Air
Grains of intently polished Silver
Awaken the mother’s sleeping child
In the Land of Light
– by Paul Capanigro

“The process should not just involve the chemical, But also, the alchemical “The task of the photographer is to place the beauty of the image into the world through Silver Prints”. He wrote…

The Silver Print, even today, has a Presence and Beauty, that’s hard to rival.

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Carbon print. Advertising specimen of the company, on Autotype paper.

Color print made from three direct photograms 1869-1870 by Louis Ducos du Hauro

Platinotype print.

About the Author

V. Karthik, has served in diverse photographic environments for more than three and a half decades. A keen photographer and lab tech right from 1984, he is conversant with conventional and emergent Photographic technologies and practices.”

His career highlights include Product/Industrial/Adverting/Medical/Archival Photography and a laboratory which rendered International quality service to all its National and Global users.

A serious interest in “Conservation of Photographs” led to establishing a true Photographic Conservation laboratory in the late eighties. V. Karthik, has to his credit, having completed nine prestigious and globally important projects and has worked with to protect, recover and conserve thousands of very valuable images. He is more recently involved in Digitization of Cultural Heritage artefacts like Paintings, Textiles, Sculptures, Pottery, Objects to Archival standards. Since 2008, Karthik’s conservation laboratory has been involved in pioneering work in print and colour management services with a range of pigment ink printers and Archival media.

Karthik remains deeply committed and devoted to Photography and that remains at the core of everything he does.

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