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Photography at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1867

If one could doubt the immense development that the art created by Niepce, Daguerre and Talbot has taken in a few years, it would suffice, in order to be certain in this respect, to read the catalogue of the Universal Exhibition. One would see that class 9 includes nearly seven hundred exhibitors, that nearly thirty different countries sent products of this kind to the Champ de Mars palace, and that photography has penetrated even the most remote regions of the globe. As for the progress made, in order to fully appreciate its value, we must examine the works exhibited, without neglecting the interesting series of devices that play such an important role in photographic manipulation. We have tried to make this examination as complete as possible, as we are obliged to do by the very special position we have occupied with photographers for the past seventeen years, and we will present a summary to our readers.

Everyone knows today to what degree of perfection the collective research of the experimenters of all countries, and of the practitioners themselves, has brought the photographic processes. Since the Universal Exhibition of 1862, there has not been as much progress in this respect as in the preceding years, for the simple reason that it was hardly possible to go further, so rapid and assured had been the progress of improvements. However, if the practical formulas published each day could not add significantly to the already excellent methods, the persevering and efficient work of the special opticians ensured that these methods were more easily and more widely successful.

While the processes were improving and multiplying with marvellous rapidity, photographic optics had long remained stationary. In spite of some modifications made to the primitive lens, single or double, the defects and qualities of these instruments remained more or less the same. However, some German and English manufacturers, Messrs. Voigtlaënder, Ross and Dallmeyer, strove, with commendable activity, to solve the various problems posed to them by the operators. From these efforts came some new devices; emulation spread to the French opticians. The competition started, so that the inventions and the improvements went on at a great pace, and today the photographers have every three months at their disposal some new instrument and that it is difficult for them to choose between those which leave the workshops of the Voigtlaënder, the Ross, the Dallmeyer, the Derogy, the Darlot, the Hermagis and some other not less skilful manufacturers. Sometimes even an unknown name suddenly appears in the midst of the struggle, such as that of Mr. Bush, of Berlin, whose wide-aperture lens has excited such keen interest on the part of competent men. Or it may be a practitioner himself who comes to present to his colleagues a completely original apparatus and to point out to them a series of scientific and practical facts of the highest interest, as M. Claudet has done in producing his ingenious lens with movable focus.

Is it to the undeniable progress of optics in France that we must attribute the superiority (recognized by the competitors themselves) of our entire photographic exhibition? Certainly, one can at least attribute to this cause the progress that is particularly evident in landscapes. In 1855 and 1862, English photographers were without rivals in this genre; today, if Messrs. Bedford, Mudd, England, Robertson, Vernon Heath, Major Stuart Wortley, and a few others deserve the most sincere praise, they have to reckon, and sometimes at their expense, with Messrs.

Alongside these masters, artists whose names were unknown to us until now and whose works are very remarkable will take their place at the exhibition: these are Messrs. G. Leuzniger (from Rio-Janeiro); Alassine (from Moscow); Selmer (Sweden); Harboë (Denmark); Burger (Austria).

As far as the portrait is concerned, it is still the French section as a whole that has the upper hand. There are many first-rate portrait painters abroad, such as Mme Adèle Perlmulter and MM. Angerer (Vienna), Wigand (Berlin), Mieczkowski (Warsaw), Chevalier, Velten (Geneva), Laurent (Spain), Hansen (Denmark), Mme Cameron, MM. Mayall, Beau and a few others in England; but in no section is there such a large number of offline works, such as those of Messrs Adam Salomon, Reutlinger, Carjat, Pierre Petit, Vauvray, Frank de Villecholle, Villette, Mulnier, Hanfstaengl, Alophe, Liebert, Burgand (de Rochefort), Wallery (de Marseille), etc, etc. Not only do these specimens possess the qualities that reveal the skill of the photographer, but they also bring together all those that indicate the trained taste and delicate feeling of the artist.

It is still in the French section, it must be said, that we find the widest and happiest applications of the new art.

If painting finds in a landscape or a photographic portrait precious information for its studies, photography renders it even greater services when it provides it with exact reproductions of the masterpieces of all schools and of all times. It is not content with collecting architectural monuments from all over the world to make up collections that are being added to day by day; it penetrates museums, private galleries and even modern workshops in search of works to be popularized. Examine at the Exhibition the frames, the numerous albums of Messrs. Braun, Marville, Bingham, Micheletz, the Marquis de Bérenger, in the French section; Fierlants, Thurston Thompson, Maso Trieste, Lombardi, in the Belgian, English and Italian sections, and you will have an idea of the activity of the popularizers and of the success with which they have mastered the difficulties presented above all by the reproduction of ancient or modern paintings. In the field of science, the applications of photography are even more numerous. Medicine, geology, astronomy, topography, and even history find in it a precious auxiliary. When we see, in the American section, the admirable representation of the moon by Mr. Rutherford; in the French gallery, the ingenious apparatus intended for the survey of plans and the remarkable specimens exhibited by Mr. Commandant Laussedat and Mr. Auguste Chevallier; the reproductions of maps and topographical sketches due to Captain de Milly, the skilful director of the photographic workshop of the Dépôt de la guerre, we can judge of the invaluable resources that all these works of precision borrow from the photographic processes.

We shall show shortly that, thanks to the inventions and improvements that have been made in photographic printing methods, these applications will take on a much wider scope by lending themselves to the demands of the book trade. But before moving on to another order of ideas, let us mention, among the most interesting applications of photography, the splendid collection of general and detailed views of the Exhibition executed by Messrs. Bisson jeune and Micheletz, two well-known specialists, and by Messrs. Léon and Levy, the skillful successors of Messrs. The riches accumulated in the Palais du Champ de Mars will soon be dispersed; the Palais itself will fall, like the varied buildings that surround it, under the pickaxe of the demolishers; the graceful baskets, the enchanted groves, the cool streams will disappear like the scenery of a fairy tale at the whistle of the machinist. But, thanks to photography, each of us will be able to see all these marvels again as we please in the albums of Messrs Bisson and Micheletz or in the stereoscope of Messrs Léon and Levy.

We now come to the printing processes mentioned above, which summarise the most important work accomplished since the Universal Exhibition in London.

The idea of transforming the image obtained in the darkroom into an engraving was the first one that came to the mind of Nicéphore Niepce himself; his letters which have just been published, and his first tests which we have been able to preserve are the irrefutable proof of this.
He exposed a metal plate coated with bitumen of Judea dissolved in lavender oil to the hearth of the darkened room. All the parts impressed by the light becoming insoluble, the acid which he then spread on the plate acted only in the places where the metal was exposed, and the ingenious inventor thus obtained an etching of the object he had wanted to reproduce.

This primitive method, modified by M. Niepce de Saint-Victor, served as a basis for several others whose results we shall have to report: those of Messrs. Charles Nègre, Amand Durand, Baldus, etc.

A few years after Nicéphore Niepce, Mr. Fox Talbot made known a completely different process. It consisted in substituting dichromate gelatin for Judea bitumen, and in biting the layer, after printing, with a solution of iron perchloride. Mr. Poitevin, on the other hand, made use of the property that a layer of dichromate gelatine, dipped (after printing) in a water bath, has of swelling in all the parts that have not been influenced by the light. By subjecting a gelatine print to the action of an electroplating bath he obtained a copper plate, offering a design composed of reliefs and depressions, like an engraved plate.

These last two methods served as a basis for those of Messrs Placet, Pretsch, Fontaine, Drivet, Woodbury, etc.

As for M. Garnier, his process is independent of all the others: it is based on the properties of an amalgam of iodine and mercury, and the results he gives, without being superior, in our opinion, to those obtained by Messrs. Nègre, Placet and Baldus are eminently remarkable. In awarding him the grand prize, the jury no doubt considered, as the main reason, the originality of his method.

The heliographic plates on steel, exhibited by Mr. Charles Nègre, have exceptional proportions. They are views of monuments, from nature. They have vigour and modelling of a surprising effect. The large shadows are as delicately elaborated as the lights, and they render even the smallest details of the photographic cliché.

These are truly masterly works in which the artist's talent and the skill of the heliographer are evident.

Mr. Placet works on smaller plates, but his plates are distinguished by an exquisite finesse. His reproductions of monuments and his views from nature leave far behind the best burin engravings in terms of delicacy of modelling and sharpness of detail. The specimens that he exhibits are numerous, and we have been able to ascertain the ease of execution that his process presents.

The plates which appear in the frame of M. Baldus are part of an important collection whose publication will be highly appreciated by artists: it is the reproduction of the works of Raphael, according to the engravings of the old Italian masters. No more perfect facsimile could be produced.

All the plates we have just mentioned are engraved and printed in intaglio. The process of Mr. Amand Durand has the advantage of providing, with equal ease and perfection, plates in intaglio or in relief. This last point is of the utmost importance, as it allows heliographic engraving to be applied to the illustration of texts in the same way as wood engraving. It is true that M. Durand limits himself to the reproduction of drawings, engravings, manuscripts, etc.; but his method is so rapid and so excellent in its results that it will necessarily bring about a revolution in the illustrated bookshop. Indeed, by obtaining directly from a photographic plate a relief plate of absolute accuracy, one saves the cost of drawing and woodcutting.

Mr. Amand Durand's rotogravure method is now in full industrial use. It is to this artist and to his skilful collaborator, Mr. Léon Lemaire, that the Historical Service of the City of Paris has entrusted the execution of the facsimiles which adorn the second volume of the General History of Paris, the publication of which is imminent. In a few days, when examining this splendid volume, all the plates of which have been produced with the aid of heliographic engraving or by chromolithography from photographic plates, the public will be able to realize the immense services that the new art is called upon to render to the book trade, if it wishes to follow the example so victoriously set by the City of Paris.

Messrs. Mante, Pinel Peschardière in the French section, and Falk in the Prussian section, have exhibited engraved plates which are of great interest, but which seem to us to reveal only successful attempts, rather than practical methods.

In class 8, among the metal and wood engravers, there is an exhibitor, Mr. Drivet, to whom the jury awarded an honourable mention. The specimens in his showcase are nothing more than heliographic plates, engraved in relief and intaglio, which their qualities have led to the assumption that they are very good productions of an experienced hand. We have seen several engravings by this same inventor which have not been exhibited, among them a view, after nature, of the Universal Exhibition, which exceeds anything that has been done in this genre. If we use the word "inventor" in connection with Mr. Drivet, it is because if he uses dichromate gelatine like many of his competitors, he has discovered - and this is very important - the means of rendering this layer inert in galvanic baths, and of producing a sort of grain which is one with the image, and which makes it possible to ink the plate in all its parts.

We are convinced that Mr. Drivet's process, which is very practical and very complete, is one of those which have the most future.

Next to heliographic engraving comes photolithography; it is again M. Lemercier, the purchaser of the Poitevin process, who has the superiority in this genre. Then come the various methods of printing with fatty inks, by Messrs. Pouncy, Swan and Woodbury, which do not seem to have made very great progress.

A completely new method has recently been produced under the name of phototyping. It is due to the combined work of a well-known scholar and artist: Messrs Tessié du Motay and Maréchal (of Metz). The results are admirable and surpass the most beautiful photographic prints, with the advantage that printing with grease ink offers those guarantees of solidity that printing with silver salts cannot give. We recommend to artists the drawing models executed by this system, which earned the inventors the gold medal.

Carbon photography is magnificently represented by the facsimile collection of master drawings, executed by Mr. Braun.

M. Despaquis, the laborious popularizer of M. Poitevin's processes, also exhibited very interesting prints obtained with charcoal on paper, canvas and mica.

As for photographic enamels, all the visitors admired those of M. Lafon de Camarsac, and all must have noticed that he had, this time, tough competitors, Messrs Déroché and Heyland (from Milan) who operate, we believe, by the method of M. Poitevin.

Although we have had to leave out of this too rapid account more than one serious work and more than one name that would have deserved to be mentioned, we believe that we have given an exact idea of the riches contained in the part of the Exhibition entrusted to our examination, and above all of the movement that has taken place in the studies and work of the disciples of Niepce, Daguerre and Talbot. Readers who have been kind enough to follow us will recognize, with us, it seems, that photography has just entered a new phase, and that it has arrived at that fertile period which is for great inventions like the age of maturity for man.

©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée