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Progress in the new art of photography was slow in England, compared with other countries. Both Daguerre and Fox Talbot were partly responsible, the former for having rather slyly placed a patent on his invention whilst the French government had made it freely available to the world, the latter for his law-suits in connection with his patents.
In 1851 a new era in photography was introduced by Frederick Scott Archer , who introduced the Collodion process. This process was much faster than conventional methods, reducing exposure times to two or three seconds, thus opening up new horizons in photography.
Prices for daguerreotypes varied, but in general would cost about a guinea (£1.05), which would be the weekly wage for many workers. The collodion process, however, was much cheaper; prints could be made for as little as one shilling (5p).
A further impetus was given to photography for the masses by the introduction of carte-de-visite photographs by Andre Disdéri . This developed into a mania, though it was relatively short-lived.
The collodion process required that the coating, exposure and development of the image should be done whilst the plate was still wet. Another process developed by Archer was named the Ambrotype , which was a direct positive.
The wet collodion process, though in its time a great step forward, required a considerable amount of equipment on location. There were various attempts to preserve exposed plates in wet collodion, for development at a more convenient time and place, but these preservatives lessened the sensitivity of the material. It was clear, then, that a dry method was required. It is likely that the difficulties of the process hastened the search for instantaneous photography. Skaife, in a pamphlet, aptly commented (1860):
"Speaking in general, instantaneous photography is as elastic a term as the expression 'long and short.'"
The next major step forward came in 1871, when Dr. Richard Maddox discovered a way of using Gelatin (which had been discovered only a few years before) instead of glass as a basis for the photographic plate. This led to the development of the dry plate process. Dry plates could be developed much more quickly than with any previous technique. Initially it was very insensitive compared with existing processes, but it was refined to the extent that the idea of factory-made photographic material was now becoming possible.
The introduction of the dry-plate process marked a turning point. No longer did one need the cumbersome wet-plates, no longer was a darkroom tent needed. One was very near the day that pictures could be taken without the photographer needing any specialised knowledge.
Celluloid had been invented in the early eighteen-sixties, and John Carbutt persuaded a manufacturer to produce very thin celluloid as a backing for sensitive material. George Eastman is particularly remembered for introducing flexible film in 1884. Four years later he introduced the box camera, and photography could now reach a much greater number of people.
Other names of significance include Herman Vogel , who developed a means whereby film could become sensitive to green light, and Eadweard Muybridge who paved the way for motion picture photography.
Popular in the Victorian times was stereoscopic photography , which reproduced images in three dimensions. It is a process whose popularity waxed and waned - as it does now - reaching its heights in the mid-Victorian era.