Monday, June 21, 2010

Photography! Edited transcript

Jedburgh30 Dagger: Hello everyone! Ladies and Gentlemen, Serafina, Jasper and I are pleased to welcome you to the June Aether Salon - Photography! I would like to thank each and every one of you for joining us today. Miss Viv is currently abroad and can’t join us, but I’m sure that she is here with us in spirit.

As many of you know, the Aether Salon meets to discuss steam and Victorian topics on the third Sunday of each month, in Palisades and Academy, New Babbage. This is our 18th salon and I hope you are all as excited about being here today as I am.

Just a few matters of housekeeping before we get started. There are two exits for the salon. Please check to see which one is closer to you, as it may be behind you. In case of a power failure, ground level lighting will guide you to an exit. If you are standing in the back, please move forward onto the maze so that you can be assured of hearing the speaker. Please hold your questions until the end, and as a courtesy to all, please turn off everything that feeds the lag: all HUDs, scripts, AOs and so on. If there is a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling. Please no weapons, bombs, rogue scripts, or unmetered poetry. Your cooperation is appreciated.

Edited and unedited transcripts will be posted this week on so you can revisit today’s merriment, read transcripts of past salons, and for a laugh, peruse “overheard at the salon.” Please join the Aether Salon group and receive notifications of future salon events, click the lower right hand corner of the large brown sign by the entrance. We sincerely appreciate the support we receive from everyone in the community and we humbly thank you all

Many fine people have contributed to today’s salon: We are grateful to Canolli Capalini of Capalini Fine Furnishings for the wonderful salon chairs, Miss Ceejay Writer, Mr. Rafael Fabre, Miss Redgirl Llewellen, Miss Breezy Carver, Miss Ahnyanka Delphin for the stage and the citizens of New Babbage who make this event possible.

As a reminder, all speakers' fund jar donations go directly to the speakers. In the unlikely event of a water landing, the cushion of your salon chair can act as a flotation device. (I have been stuck in airports a lot lately. Why do you ask?) Now I will turn the stage over to Jasper for the introduction of today’s speaker. Jasper?

Jasper Kiergarten: Thank you Jed and good afternoon to all of you (or whatever time of day it happens to be where your typists are:) )

The photographer PJ Trenton has wowed us with his portraits, images, and photo cards of places we love. He captures season and setting and personality in ways that the two-dimensional medium usually cannot. And he is extremely politic about his subjects, saying, "Whether one likes or dislikes something is pretty much irrelevant…the importance is in the seeing. The creative process can mean such differing and varied things to everyone: a form of expression; a method of communicating; a catalyst for personal growth; a means of sharing; or perhaps even a journey of exploration. This is what fascinates me and what drives me to create."

As a staff photographer for Primgraph (as well as many others) Magazines, Mr Trenton explores and photographs some of the most beautiful and interesting places across the Aethernet. He is also a freelance photographer and graphic designer through my own business, Render Design. As well, he is the photographer AND designer of our favorite epic image-logue "The Quest or the Golden Prim" ( Based in Second Life, episodes are published in each issue of Primgraph magazine.

Mr. Trenton is the owner of Exposure Art Gallery in Tabula Rasa, Avalon Town, where he is pleased to feature and support some of Second Life's greatest artistic talent. You are welcome to peruse his work at your leisure here:,, and "The Luminous Lens: Photo Abstractions by PJ Trenton" written by Rowan Derryth ~

Ladies and gentlemen, please make welcome Mr. PJ Trenton

PJ Trenton: Thank you very much Miss Dagger, Miss Puchkina, Mr. Kiergarten and of course Miss Trafalgar for the invitation to lecture today at the prestigious Aether Salon. I am truly honoured to be here to share with everyone a topic I hold very dear to my heart.

It is wonderful to see all of you today for what I hope will be an interesting and visually stimulating presentation on the history of photography, its pioneers and its development and use in Victorian times. You are likely aware of the new adage that a picture is worth 1,000 words. Let me start by saying that while that may possibly be true, my work in the Primgraph is nothing without each and every word written by my many talented colleagues.

Also, having frequently photographed the Salon, I will do my best to concentrate on the task at hand and refrain from photographing today. If I happen to go silent for any period of time you will know that I failed. Personally I'm not confident...

Photography is both art and science. While this presentation may tend more towards the artistic, I trust there is a sufficient amount of science for those who have an interest. I have a number of slides to share with you throughout the presentation. No discussion on the history of photography can ignore the importance of camera obscura, literally meaning “dark room”. Of significant importance is that its discovery and subsequent development were originally undertaken as a means of facilitating drafting, drawing and painting.

In its most basic form, a small hole in the side wall of a dark space (say a box or even a room) will cast a replica of the scene outside the hole on the opposite surface, albeit upside down. As further experiments would show, the clarity of the image could be markedly improved by affixing a lens in the hole. There are a handful of pioneers in the history of photography worth noting here. I will very briefly introduce them, and their seminal roles in the advent and early development of the medium.

The invention of photography would not have been possible without a much earlier discovery by German professor Johann Heinrich Schulze. (hopes the slides are rezzing for everyone) Born in 1687, Schulze discovered that certain silver salts, notably silver chloride and silver nitrate, darken in the presence of light. This discovery formed the basis of future experiments by the individuals I will now introduce.

Using Schulze’s knowledge, Thomas Wedgwood, son of the famous potter Josiah, made the first attempts to record an image onto a surface. Shortly before 1800, he began by coating paper or white leather with a solution of silver nitrate. Flat objects or painted transparencies were placed in contact with the prepared surface and then exposed to sunlight. Uncovered areas became darker the longer they were exposed. Alas, Wedgwood was unsuccessful in finding a method to desensitize the exposed areas. This meant that the surfaces continued to darken with further exposure to sunlight. He had to store these “sun prints” in absolute darkness and they could only be viewed for very short periods of time using candlelight.

French inventor Nicephore Niepce, born in 1765, is credited with producing the first permanent photograph in 1826. This “success” was after many years of experimentation, first from the creation of a negative image and ultimately to a positive image. The key here was finding a substance that was sensitive to light that could be treated so that it would bleach when exposed, rather than darken. This substance turned out to be bitumen of Judea, used at the time by etchers to create engraving plates. He dissolved the bitumen with oil of lavender or oil from distilled animal bones, and spread the substance on a well polished pewter plate. His first success was an exact reproduction of an existing engraving of Georges d’Amboise, Cardinal and Archbishop of Reims. This is the first photomechanical technique that essentially eliminated the “hand of man” in reproducing pictures.

He eventually took his experiments even farther and made direct positives on metal and glass plates that he would expose to light through a camera obscura. These plates would then be placed over a box containing iodine which is gaseous at room temperature. The gas darkened the plate in the more shadowed areas of the image. This first positive photograph on the screen is the result; a very rudimentary image depicting the view from an upper window of his house. Amazingly, this image took 8 hours to create but was almost evenly lit as a result of the sun moving across the image over the full exposure time. The image is also laterally reversed and was named a heliograph by Niepce.

Frenchman Louis Daguerre was a scenic artist who specialized in painting stage sets for opera and theatre. He co-owned a theatre built to display the “Diorama,” a 46 x 72 foot painting created with frequent use of a camera obscura. He was conducting his experiments at approximately the same time as Niepce and the two actually became business partners for a period of four years beginning in 1829. Daguerre is best known for the invention of the Daguerreotype which in essence is a copper plate coated in iodine, then exposed to light for several minutes before being subjected to mercury vapour heated to 75° Celsius. This amalgamated the mercury with the silver. The resultant plate produced an exact reproduction of the scene. He would then fix the image by soaking the plate in salt water. The image was laterally reversed, unless a second mirror was used during exposure to mirror the image. The image could only be viewed at an angle and needed protection from the air and fingerprints so was encased in a glass-fronted box.

Daguerre is also credited with taking the first photograph featuring a person, taken in 1838 and displayed on the screen. It may be very hard to see the person, but they are down in the lower left, apparently having their shoes shined. While Niepce and Daguerre had utilized somewhat similar processes to produce photographic images, those by Niepce were less refined than those of Daguerre. This was a combination of slightly different chemicals and compounds and differences in the quality of the equipment utilized by each. After Niepce died, Daguerre continued to refine his processes, and as a result, he considered the final invention to be his own rather than joint to the original partnership. He produced a highly successful still life in 1837. It would be very interesting to see what this view looks like now. He presented his findings at l’Academie des Sciences and was written about in the Gazette de France in early 1839 and later that year his patent was acquired by the French government.

At the same time, in England, William Fox Talbot was working independently on an almost identical technique to Daguerre’s. Imagine his surprise to hear reports of Daguerre’s initiatives and presentations of his process at l’Academie. It then became a matter of urgency to publish his work in order to claim the invention of the process in his own name. Fox Talbot treated paper with sodium chloride followed by a strong solution of silver nitrate. This created the light sensitive silver chloride. Similar to Wedgwood, he placed objects like leaves, lace or a feather in contact with the paper and exposed it to light. Unlike Wedgwood, he had discovered how to fix the negative using a strong solution of salt or potassium iodide.

He described in his notes how a positive image could be made from the negative stating “if the paper is transparent, the first drawing may serve as an object, to produce a second drawing in which the light and shadows would be reversed.” Fox Talbot is credited with producing the first book which contained photographic images, entitled The Pencil of Nature, published in 1844-46. He named his technique a calotype and secured his patent from the British Government in 1841. Here you see the cover and two of the images which appeared in the book.

Frederick Scott Archer introduced the next innovation in photographic technology in 1851 by discovering a method of sensitizing glass plates with silver salts by the use of collodion. Collodion is a solution of nitrocellulose in alcohol and ether. It is particularly viscous and dries into a tough, waterproof film. Archer added potassium iodide to the collodion and coated a glass plate with it. Dipped in silver nitrate, the silver ions combined with the iodine ions to form silver iodide which is light-sensitive. The plate was exposed while wet, inside the camera and then developed in pyrogallic acid, fixed, washed and dried. Needless to say, the process had to be completed very quickly before the collodion dried and required the photographer to be relatively close to a dark room. Those using this process in the field had to have some sort of portable darkroom, such as a wagon or tent. Such as the wagon of Roger Fenton depicted here...

Using the colloid process, cameras had to be mounted on a tripod as exposure time could range anywhere from 15 seconds to over a minute depending on the level of light present. The collodion process had replaced the daguerreotype and calotype processes within about a decade of its invention and was the dominant process until the 1880s.

There are certainly other pioneers in the history of photography, but their contributions tended more towards technique and style rather than technical development. We will hear about some of these individuals later in the presentation. Next I will discuss the development of portraiture from the 1840s onwards.

While Daguerre is credited with the first photograph of a human being in 1838, it wasn’t until 1840 that photography is used specifically to create portraits of individuals, families and groups. In its earliest stages, the daguerreotype process was not conducive to portrait photography and seen as excessively complicated. In some of the earliest portraits, sitters were braced with a complicated frame to help them remain still during the exposure.

PJ Trenton points at the screen which depicts an example...

The complexities of the early daguerreotype also made the French government order Daguerre to give public demonstrations. Not long after though, Daguerre returned to his old life of scene painting and did little to improve his invention. However, by the end of 1840, three technical advancements helped make portrait photography easier, more affordable and by extension, more widely accessible. Improvements in lens quality, the light sensitivity of plates and the introduction of gilding lessened the amount of time required to sit for a portrait and made the final product much clearer and more intense. More importantly, these advances resulted in a proliferation of portrait studios throughout the Western world, thus lowering the cost and increasing the availability of having your portrait taken. Apparently individuals could become technically proficient enough to open a studio in about two weeks. I opened my first studio here in one week...just sayin'

Cheapness of production and increased competition meant that citizens from wider strata of society could afford to have their portraits taken. It is estimated that in the year ending in June 1855, over 400,000 daguerreotypes were taken in Massachusetts alone. Sitters tended to be posed against plain backgrounds and illuminated by diffuse light sources such as windows and skylights. Portraits took approximately 30 seconds and required both sitting perfectly still and assuming a natural expression.

Any movement would ruin the image and there was no retouching possible on the final image with the exception of delicate tinting. Not the easiest way to model and made more complicated with larger family or group images. A New York gallery boasted of a daily production of three hundred to one thousand portraits. It has been estimated that 95% of all daguerreotypes were portraits.

One popular use of portraits was for so called “carte de visite.” Patented in Paris in 1854 by André Disdéri, the paper photograph was mounted on a thicker paper card. The size of a carte de visite was 2⅛ × 3½ inches mounted on a card of 2½ × 4 inches. Apparently before Quest for the Golden Prim cards...there were these things to collect...

Now we turn our attention to the artistic aspects of photography in the period. One of my favourite quotations was by the English critic C. Jabez Hughes who wrote in an 1861 issue of the American Journal of Photography: “Hitherto photography has been principally content with representing Truth. Can its sphere not be enlarged? And may it not aspire to delineate Beauty, too?” The continuing development and refinement of photographic techniques and processes, in addition to its continually declining costs meant an increasing number of amateurs and those interested in the artistic opportunities of the camera began to flourish.

These photographers did not need studios and clients but rather pointed their lenses at friends, family and other acquaintances; or at buildings and scenes that appealed to them. As a result we have some remarkable portraits, scenes and images of a much more artistic nature than had been seen to date. Allegories and depictions from popular literature were one of the first forays into a more artistic treatment of photography. While partners David Hill and Robert Adamson produced an astonishing record of Victorian Scotland during their 4 year partnership, they also encouraged friends to dress up in any variety of costumes to be depicted, for example, in passages from the novels of Sir Walter Scott.

One of the pioneers of artistic photography in the 1850s was Henry Peach Robinson. The image on the screen created quite a stir when produced in 1858. Entitled Fading Away, it is a print made from five negatives. While the main subject of the photograph was in fact healthy, Robinson undertook the work to “see how near death she could be made to look.” In general, the public was outraged at the depiction of such a personal scene of suffering and sorrow. He ultimately created a significant body of art photographs throughout his career.

Perhaps some of the most dynamic and artistic portraits produced in the 1860s and 70s were those by Julia Margaret Cameron.
Cameron is a great example of the amateur taking up the camera and using it in much different ways than the “so called” professional operating commercial studios. Cameron’s images are stunning, beautiful and undeniably artistic. Where she may have lacked in technical expertise, she certainly made up for with deliberate methods to get the results she desired; purposely for instance blurring or taking images out-of-focus. In terms of subjects, it didn’t hurt that she was often surrounded by illustrious friends such as Tennyson, Darwin, Carlyle, Browning and Longfellow. One of her favourite subjects was Alice Liddell, also a favourite photographic subject of Lewis Carroll and the inspiration behind Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland.
Cameron’s work, while oft criticized at the time, has come to be appreciated as a significant contribution in the annals of art, photography and history.

And finally, with the impressive Babbage skyline and its intricate underground tunnels, I thought I would end with one final photographic pioneer that Babbagers might be interested to learn about. Félix Nadar was the pseudonym of Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (1820 –1910). Nadar, as he was commonly known, has two very important photographic firsts to his name. First, he is credited with taking the first photographs from the air. Nadar was an avid balloonist and from that vantage point, took numerous images of Paris.

Secondly, he discovered a way of lighting dark and dreary locations underground, such as the Paris sewers. This meant that they could now be photographed. Samples of both are on the screen, including a self-portrait in his balloon basket which he took in his studio. I will end my presentation here, and thank you for your attention.

Obviously this is a very broad subject which is difficult to cover in such a short period of time. I trust you have found it informative, educational and interesting. Thank you so much for attending. It was a fascinating subject to peruse ... and so many other images I would have loved to share with you

Serafina Puchkina: Does anyone have a question for the speaker?

AM Radio: nadar's discovery for taking pictures in the dark, what was it?

PJ Trenton: well in essence it was a method of bringing light there

AM Radio: magnesium flash?

PJ Trenton: I will have to double check on that

Owl Sweetwater: the painter Chuck Close has been making daguerretypes recently- compelling and beautiful to see

Linus Lacombe raises his hand

Rowan Derryth: Pj, in your research, what new photographer did you discover that you most liked, or who you could relate to from your own work? Oops, sorry Linus, too excited and I blurted.

Serafina Puchkina: Linus, your question. Then Rowan's.

Linus Lacombe asks..."would you ever consider doing a presentation in SL on 19th century spirit photography, from an artistic perspective?"

Bookworm Hienrichs: Hmmm...that's a Salon topic in and of itself. Spiritualism.

PJ Trenton: hmmmm...there's a very interesting question

Linus Lacombe: I was just so impressed with this presentation that I had to ask

Rowan Derryth: Interesting topic in general... Theosophy... mediums, etc.

PJ Trenton: I understand that Doyle wrote a text related to that and certainly worth a bit of research!

PJ Trenton: I have certainly expanded my knowledge in preparing for this presentation and am all for further investigation! And going back briefly to AM's question, Nadar was able to utilize electric light in order to take these underground sewer photographs so a constant light source rather than a "flash" of light the exposure times would not lend themselves to brief lighting

Serafina Puchkina: "Pj, in your research, what new photographer did you discover that you most liked, or who you could relate to from your own work?" (that was Rowan's question)

PJ Trenton: this was the first time that electric light was able to be used in this way. Well I'm thinking Nadar...heck...look at that balloon!

Rowan Derryth thanks Serafina

Bookworm Hienrichs: What in Second Life inspires you in your photography here?

PJ Trenton: Well, the amazing creativity of so many people I know... People who take the time and care to create things that are so beautifully designed. They inspire me in so many ways. PJ Trenton tries not to look too directly at the tall hat...

Bookworm Hienrichs smiles around at the many builders and creators here.

PJ Trenton: I think what I like most is non-randomness...spaces that are cohesive. Babbage and environs is a perfect example. I would say that some of my most inspired work has come from here and of course having a slave driver to send you to all of these places... oh wait...strike that from the transcript

PJ Trenton makes a note to hack the Aether Salon blog later

Jedburgh30 Dagger makes a note to send the transcript to the Primgraph

Serafina Puchkina: Thank you all for coming today! Thank you PJ for a most enlightening presentation

PJ Trenton: It was both my honour and pleasure

Serafina Puchkina: A reminder that we will be on summer break until September

PJ Trenton: I'll next be appearing at the Holiday Inn out by the airport

Serafina Puchkina: If you would like to join the AetherSalon group there is a sign by the door. Please show your speaker love by using the tip jar.

PJ Trenton: oh and I have a gift! A commemorative book of photographs of Babbage.

Serafina Puchkina: All funds go directly to the speaker. Transcripts will be posted this week at PJ, thank you for this month's craft. Everyone please take a craft home with you

PJ Trenton: Thanks so much to everyone for joining me today! Thanks to Jed, Sera and Jasper for all of their hard work in putting this together! I'm sorry that Miss Viv was unable to join us

Bookworm Hienrichs will have pictures posted sometime mid- to late-week.

Serafina Puchkina: Thank you all for coming

Jasper Kiergarten: Thanks to everyone for the donations! Once again, all proceeds go to the speaker and thanks for coming! Good to see everyone

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