THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
VOL. XII.—JULY, 1868.—NO. LXIX.
FEW of those who seek a photographer’s establishment to have their portraits taken know at all into what a vast branch of commerce this business of sun -picturing has grown. We took occasion lately to visit one of the principal establishments in the country, that of Messrs. E. & H. T. Anthony, in Broadwav, New York. We had made the acquaintance of these gentlemen through the remarkable instantaneous stereoscopic views published by them, and of which we spoke in a former article in terms which some might think extravagant. Our unsolicited commendation of these marvellous pictures insured us a more than polite reception. Every detail of the branches of the photographic business to which they are more especially devoted was freely shown us, and “ No Admittance ” over the doors of their inmost sanctuaries came to mean for us, “ Walk in ; you are heartily welcome.”
We should be glad to tell our readers of all that we saw in the two establishments of theirs which we visited, but this would take the whole space which we must distribute among several subdivisions of a subject that offers many points of interest. We must confine ourselves to a few glimpses and sketches.
The guests of the neighboring hotels, as they dally with their morning’s omelet, little imagine what varied uses come out of the shells which furnished them their anticipatory repast of disappointed chickens. If they had visited Mr. Anthony’s upper rooms, they would have seen a row of young women before certain broad, shallow pans filled with the glairy albumen which once enveloped those potential fowls.
The one next us takes a large sheet of photographic paper, (a paper made in Europe for this special purpose, very thin, smooth, and compact,) and floats it evenly on the surface of the albumen. Presently she lifts it very carefully by the turned-up corners and hangs it bias, as a seamstress might say, that is, cornerwise, on a string, to dry. This “ albumenized ” paper is sold most extensively to photographers, who find it cheaper to buy than to prepare it. It keeps for a long time uninjured, and is “sensitized” when wanted, as we shall see by-and-by.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1863, by TICKNOR AND FIELDS, in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
The amount of photographic paper which is annually imported from France and Germany has been estimated at fifteen thousand reams. Ten thousand native partlets —
cackle over the promise of their inchoate offspring, doomed to perish unfeathered, before fate has decided whether they shall cluck or crow, for the sole use of the minions of the sun and the feeders of the caravanseras.
In another portion of the same establishment are great collections of the chemical substances used in photography. To give an idea of the scale on which these 'are required, we may state that the estimate of the annual consumption of the precious metals for photographic purposes, in this country, is set down at ten tons for silver and half a ton for gold. Vast quantities of the hyposulphite of soda, which, we shall see, plays an important part in the process of preparing the negative plate and finishing the positive print, are also demanded.
In another building, provided with steam-power, which performs much of the labor, is carried on the great work of manufacturing photographic albums, cases for portraits, parts of cameras, and of printing pictures from negatives. Many of these branches of work are very interestiug. The luxurious album, embossed, clasped, gilded, resplendent as a tropical butterfly, goes through as many transformations as a “ purple emperor.” It begins a pasteboard larva, is swathed and pressed and glued into the condition of a chrysalis, and at last alights on the centre-table gorgeous in gold and velvet, the perfect imago. The cases for portraits are made in lengths, and cut up, somewhat as they say ships are built in Maine, a mile at a time, to be afterwards sawed across so as to become sloops, schooners, or such other sized craft as may happen to be wanted.
Each single process in the manufacture of elaborate products of skill oftentimes seems and is very simple. The workmen in large establishments, where labor is greatly subdivided, become wonderfully adroit in doing a fraction of something. They always remind us of the Chinese or the old Egyptians. A young person who mounts photographs on cards all day long confessed to having never, or almost never, seen a negative developed, though standing at the time within a few feet of the dark closet where the process was going on all day long. One forlorn individual will perhaps pass his days in the single work of cleaning the glass plates lor negatives. Almost at his elbow is a toning bath, but he would think it a good joke, if you asked him whether a picture had Jain long enough in the solution of gold or hyposulpliite.
We always take a glance at the literature which is certain to adorn the walls in the neighborhood of each operative’s bench or place for work. Our friends in the manufactory we are speaking of were not wanting in this respect. One of the girls had pasted on the wall before her,
It would not have been easy to give her a harsh one after reading her chosen maxim. “ The Moment, of Parting ” was twice noticed. “ The Haunted Spring,” “ Dearest May,” “ The Bong Boat,” “Yankee Girls,” “Yankee Ship and Yankee Crew,” “My Country, ’t is of thee,” and — was there ever anybody that ever broke up prose into lengths who would not look to see if there were not a copy of some performance of his own on the wall he was examining, if he were exploring the inner chamber of a freshly opened pyramid ?
We left the great manufacturing establishment of the Messrs. Anthony, more than ever impressed with the vast accession of happiness which has come to mankind through this art, which has Spread itself as widely as civilization. The photographer can procure every article needed for his work at moderate cost and in quantities suited to his wants. His prices have consequently come down to such a point that pauperism itself need hardly shrink from the outlay required for a family portrait-gallery. The “ tin-types,” as the small miniatures are called, — stannotypes would be the proper name, — are furnished at the rate of two cents each ! A portrait such as Isabey could not paint for a Marshal of France, — a likeness such as Malbone could not make of a President’s Lady, to be had for two coppers,— a dozen chefs d‘œuvre for a quarter of a dollar!
We had been for a long time meditating a devotion of a part of what is left of our more or less youthful energies to acquiring practical knowledge of the photographic art. The auspicious moment came at last, and we entered ourselves as the temporary apprentice of Mr. J. W. Black of this city, well known as a most skilful photographer and a friendly assistant of beginners in the art.
We consider ourselves at this present time competent to set up a photographic ambulance or to hang out a sigu in any modest country town. We should, no doubt, over-time and under-tone, and otherwise wrong the countenances of some of our sitters ; but we should get the knack in a week or two, and if Baron Wenzel owned to having spoiled a hat-full of eyes before he had fairly learned how to operate for cataract, we need not think too much of libelling a few village physiognomies before considering ourselves fit to take the minister and his deacons. After years of practice there is always something to learn, but every one is surprised to find how little time is required for the acquisition of skill enough to make a passable negative and print a tolerable picture. We could not help learning, with the aid that was afforded us by Mr. Black and his assistants, who were all so very courteous and pleasant, that, as a token of gratitude, wc offered to take photographs of any of them who would sit to us for that purpose. Every stage of the process, from preparing a plate to mounting a finished sun-print, we have taught our hands to perform, and can therefore speak with a certain authority to those who wish to learn the way of working with the sunbeam.
Notwithstanding the fact that the process of making a photographic picture is detailed in a great many books, — nay, although we have given a brief account of the principal stages of it in one of our former articles, we are going to take the reader into the sanctuary of the art with us, and ask him to assist, in the French sense of the word, while we make a photograph, — say, rather, while the mysterious forces which we place in condition to act work that miracle for us.
We are in a room lighted through a roof of ground glass, its walls covered with blue paper to avoid reflection. A camera mounted on an adjustable stand is before us. We will fasten this picture, -which, we are going to copy, against the wall. Now we will place the camera opposite to it, and bring it into focus so as to give a clear image on the square of ground glass in the interior of the instrument. If the image is too large, we push the camera back; if too small, push it up towards the picture and focus again. The image is wrong side up, as we see ; but if wo take the trouble to reverse the picture we are copying, it will appear in its proper position in the camera. Having got an image of the right size, and perfectly sharp, wc will prepare a sensitive plate, which shall be placed exactly where the ground glass now is, so that this same image shall be printed on it.
For this purpose we must quit the warm precincts of the cheerful day, and go into the narrow den where the deeds of darkness are done. Its dimensions are of the smallest, and its aspect of the rudest. A feeble yellow flame from a gas-light is all that illuminates it. All round us are troughs and bottles and water-pipes, and ill-conditioned utensils of various kinds. Everything is blackened with nitrate of silver ; every form of spot, of streak, of splash, of spatter, of stain, is to be seen upon the floor, the walls, the shelves, the vessels. Leave all linen behind yon, ye who enter here, or at least protect it at every exposed point. Cover your hands in gauntlets of India-rubber, if you would not utter Lady Macbeth’s soliloque over them when they come to the light of day. Defend the nether garments with overalls, such as plain artisans are wont to wear. Button the ancient coat over the candid shirt-front, and hold up the retracted wristbands by elastic bands around the shirt-sleeve above the elbow. Conscience and nitrate of silver are telltales that never forget any tampering with them, and the broader the light the darker their record. Now to our work.
Here is a square of crown glass threefourths as large as a page of the “ Atlantic Monthly,” if you happen to know that periodical. Let us brush it carefully, that its surface may be free from dust. Now we take hold of it by the upper left-hand corner and pour some of this thin syruplike fluid upon it, inclining the plate gently from side to side, so that it may spread evenly over the surface, and let the superfluous fluid drain back from the right hand upper corner into the bottle. We keep the plate rocking from side to side, so as to prevent the fluid running in lines, as it has a tendency to do. The neglect of this precaution is evident in some otherwise excellent photographs; we notice it, for instance, in Frith’s Abou Simbel, No. I, the magnificent rock-temple facade. In less than a minute the syrupy fluid has dried, and appears like a film of transparent varnish oil the glass plate. We now place it on a fiat double hook of gutta percha and lower it gently into the nitrate-of-silver bath. As it must remain there three or four minutes, we will pass away the time in explaining what has been already done.
The syrupy fluid was iodized collodion. This is made by dissolving gun-cotton in other with alcohol, and adding some iodide of ammonium. When a thin layer of this fluid is poured on the class plate, the ether and alcohol evaporate very speedily, and leave a closely adherent film of organic matter derived from the cotton, and containing the iodide of ammonium. We have plunged this into the bath, which contains chiefly nitrate of silver, but also some iodide of silver, — knowing that a decomposition will take place, in consequence of which the iodide of ammonium will become changed to the iodide of silver, which will now fill the pores of the collodion film. The iodide of silver is eminently sensitive to light. The use of the collodion is to furnish a delicate, homogeneous, adhesive, colorless layer in which the iodide may he deposited. Its organic nature may favor the action of light upon the iodide of silver.
While we have been talking and waiting, the process just described has been going on, and we are now ready to take the glass plate out of the nitrate-of-silver bath. It is wholly changed in aspect. The film has become in appearance like a boiled white of egg, so that the glass produces rather the effect of porcelain, as we look at it. Open no door now ! Let in no glimpse of day, or the charm is broken in an instant! No Sultana was ever veiled from the light of heaven as this milky tablet we hold must be. But we must carry it to the camera which stands waiting for it in the blaze of high noon. To do this we first carefully place it in this narrow case, called a shield, where it lies safe in utter darkness. We now carry it to the camera, and, having removed the ground glass on which the camera-picture had been brought to an exact focus, we drop the shield containing the sensitive plate into the groove the glass occupied. Then we pull out a slide, as the blanket is taken from a horse before be starts. There is nothing now but to remove the brass cap from the lens. That is giving the word Go! It is a tremulous moment for the beginner.
As we lift the brass cap, we begin to count seconds,—by a watch, if we are naturally unrhythmical, — by the pulsations in our souls, if we have an intellectual pendulum and escapement. Most persons can keep tolerably even time with a second-hand while it is traversing its circle. The light is pretty good at this time, and we count only as far as thirty, when we cover the lens again with the cap. Then we replace the slide in the shield, draw this out of the camera, and carry it back into the shadowy realm where Cocytus flows in black nitrate of silver and Acheron stagnates in the pool of hyposulphite, and invisible ghosts, trooping down from the world of day, cross a Styx of dissolved sulphate of iron, and appear before the Rhadamanthus of that lurid Hades.
Such a ghost we hold imprisoned in the shield we have just brought from the camera. We open it and find our milkysurfaced glass plate looking exactly as it did when we placed it in the shield. No eye, no microscope, can detect a trace of change in the white film that is spread over it. And yet there is a potential image in it,— a latent soul, which will presently appear before its judge. This is the Stygian stream, — this solution of proto-sulphate of iron, with which we will presently flood the white surface.
We pour on the solution. There is no change at first ; the fluid flows over the whole surface as harmless and as useless as if it were water. What if there were no picture there ? Stop ! what is that change of color beginning at this edge, and spreading as a blush spreads over a girl’s cheek ? It is a border, like that round the picture, and then dawns the outline of a head, and now the eyes come out from the blank as stars from the empty sky, and the lineaments define themselves, plainly enough, yet in a strange aspect, — for where there was light in the picture we have shadow, and where there was shadow we have light. But while we look it seems to fade again, as if it would disappear. Have no fear of that; it is only deepening its shadows. Now we place it under the running water which we have always at hand. We hold it up before the dull-red gas-light, and then we see that every line of the original and the artist’s name are reproduced as sharply as if the fairies had engraved them for us. The picture is perfect of its kind, only it seems to want a little more force. That we can easily get by the simple process called intensifying ” or “ redeveloping.” We mix a solution of nitrate of silver and of pyrogallic acid in about equal quantities, and pour it upon the pictured film and back again into the vessel, repeating this with the same portion of fluid several times, presently the fluid grows brownish, and at the same time the whole picture gains the depth of shadow in its darker parts which we desire. Again we place it under the running water. When it is well washed, we plunge it into this bath of hyposulphite of soda, which removes all the iodide of silver, leaving only the dark metal impregnating the film. After it has remained there a few minutes, we take it out and wash it again as before under the running stream of' water. Then we dry it, and when it is dry, pour varnish over it, dry that, and it is done. This is a negative, — not a true picture, but a reversed picture, which puts darkness for light and light for darkness. From this we can take true pictures, or positives.
Let us now proceed to take one of these pictures. In a small room, lighted by a few rays which filter through a yellow curtain, a youth has been employed all the morning in developing the sensitive conscience of certain sheets of paper, which came to him from the manufacturer already glazed by having been floated upon the white of eggs and carefully dried, as previously described. This “ albumenized ” paper the youth lays gently and skilfully upon the surface of a solution of nitrate of silver. When it has floated there a few minutes, he lifts it lets it drain, and hangs it by one corner to dry. This “ sensitized ” paper is served fresh every morning, as it loses its delicacy by keeping.
We take a piece of this paper of the proper size, and lay it on the varnished or pictured side of the negative, which is itself laid in a wooden frame, like a picture-frame. Then we place a thick piece of cloth on the paper. Then we lay a hinged wooden back on the cloth, and by means of two brass springs press all close together,—the wooden back against the cloth, the cloth against the paper, the paper against the negative. We turn the frame over and see that the plain side of the glass negative is clean. And now we step out upon the roof of the house into the bright sunshine, and lay the frame, with the glass uppermost, in the full blaze of light. For a very little while we can see the paper darkening through the negative, but presently it clouds so much that its further changes cannot he recognized. When we think it has darkened nearly enough, we turn it over, open a part of the hinged back, turn down first a portion of the thick cloth, and then enough of the paper to see something of the forming picture. If not printed dark enough as yet, we turn back to their places successively the picture, the cloth, the opened part of the frame, and lay it again in the sun. It is just like cooking : the sun is the fire, and the picture is the cake; when it is browned exactly to the right point, we take it off the fire. A photograph-printer will have fitly or more pictures printing at once, and he keeps going up and down the line, opening the frames to look and see how they are getting on. As fast as they are done, he turns them over, back to the sun, and the cooking process stops at once.
The pictures which have just been printed in the sunshine are of a peculiar purple tint, and still sensitive to the light, which will first “ flatten them out,” and finally darken the whole paper, if they are exposed to it before the series of processes which “ fixes ” and “ tones ” them. They are kept shady, therefore, until a batch is ready to go down to the toning room.
When they reach that part of the establishment, the first thing that is done with them is to throw them face down upon the surface of a salt bath. Their purple changes at once to a dull red. They are then washed in clean water for a few minutes, and after that laid, face up, in a solution of chloride of gold with a salt of soda. Here they must he for some minutes at least; for the change, which we can watch by the scanty daylight admitted, goes on slowly. Gradually they turn to a darker shade ; the reddish tint becomes lilac, purple, brown, of somewhat different tints in different cases. When the process seems to have gone far enough, the picture is thrown into a bath containing hyposulphite of soda, which dissolves the superfluous, unstable compounds, and rapidly clears up the lighter portions of the picture. On being removed from this, it is thoroughly washed, dried, and mounted, by pasting it with starch or dextrine to a card of the proper size.
The reader who has followed the details of the process may like to know what are the. common difficulties the beginner meets with.
The first is in coating the glass with collodion. It takes some practice to learn to do this neatly and uniformly.
The second is in timing the immersion in the nitrate-of-silver bath. This is easily overcome ; the glass may be examined by the feeble lamp-light at the end of two or three minutes, and if the surface looks streaky, replunged in the bath for a minute or two more, or until the surface looks smooth.
The third is in getting an exact focus in the camera, which wants good •eyes, or strong glasses for poor ones.
The fourth is in timing the exposure. This is the most delicate of all the processes. Experience alone can teach the time required with different objects in different lights. Here are four cardportraits from a negative taken from one of Barry’s crayon-pictures, illustrating an experiment which will prove very useful to the beginner. The negative of No. 1 was exposed only two seconds. The young lady’s face is very dusky on a very dusky ground. The lights have hardly come out at all. No. 2 was exposed five seconds. Undertimed, but much cleared up. No. 3 was exposed fifteen seconds, about the proper time. It is the best of the series, but the negative ought to have been intensified. It looks as if Miss E. V. had washed her face since the five-seconds picture was taken. No. 4 was exposed sixty seconds, that is to say, three or four times too long. It has a curious resemblance to No. 1, but is less dusky. The contrasts of light and shade which gave life to No. 3 have disappeared, and the face looks as if a second application of soap would improve it. A few trials of this kind will teach the eye to recognize the appearances of underand over-exposure, so that, if the first negative proves to have been too long or too short a time in the camera, the proper period of exposure for the next may be pretty easily determined.
The printing from the negative is less difficult, because we can examine the picture as often as we choose; but it may be well to undertime and overtime some pictures, for the sake of a lesson like that taught by the series of pictures from the four negatives.
The only other point likely to prove difficult is the toning in the gold bath. As the picture can be watched, however, a very little practice will enable us to recognize the shade which indicates that this part of the process is finished.
We have copied a picture, but we can take a portrait from Nature just as easily, except for a little more trouble in adjusting the position and managing the light. So easy is it to reproduce the faces that we love to look upon; so simple is that marvellous work by which we preserve the first smile of infancy and the last look of age: the most precious gift Art ever bestowed upon love and friendship !
It will be observed that the glass plate, covered with its film of collodion, was removed directly from the nitrate-of-silver bath to the camera, so as to be exposed to its image while still wet. It is obvious that this process is one that can hardly be performed conveniently at a distance from the artist’s place of work. Solutions of nitrate of silver are not carried about and decanted into baths and back again into bottles without tracking their path on persons and things. The photophobia of the “ sensitized ” plate, of course, requires a dark apartment of some kind: commonly a folding tent is made to answer the purpose in photographic excursions. It becomes, therefore, a serious matter to transport all that is required to make a negative according to the method described. It has consequently been a great desideratum to find some way of preparing a sensitive plate which could be dried and laid away, retaining its sensitive quality for days or weeks until wanted. The artist would then have to take with him nothing but his camera and his dry sensitive plates. After exposing these in the camera, they would be kept in dark boxes until he was ready to develop them at leisure on returning to his atelier.
Many “ dry methods ” have been contrived, of which the tannin process is in most favor. The plate, after being “ sensitized ” and washed, is plunged in a bath containing ten grains of tannin to an ounce of water. It is then dried, and may be kept for a long time without losing its sensitive quality. It is placed dry in the camera, and developed by wetting it and then pouring over it a mixture of pyrogallic acid and the solution of nitrate of silver. Amateurs find this the best way for taking scenery, and produce admirable pictures by it, as we shall mention by-and-by.
In our former articles we have spoken principally of stereoscopic pictures. These are still our chief favorites for scenery, for architectural objects, for almost everything but portraits,—and even these last acquire a reality in the stereoscope which they can get in no other way. In this third photographic excursion we must only touch briefly upon the stereograph. Yet we have something to add to what we said before on this topic.
One of the most interesting accessions to our collection is a series of twelve views, on glass, of scones and objects in California, sent us with unprovoked liberality by the artist, Mr. Watkins. As specimens of art they are admirable, and some of the subjects are among the most interesting to be found in the whole realm of Nature. Thus, the great tree, the “ Grizzly Giant,” of Mariposa, is shown in two admirable views ; the mighty precipice of El Capitan, more than three thousand feet in precipitous height, — the three conical hill-tops of Yo Semite, taken, not as they soar into the atmosphere, but as they are reflected in the calm waters below,—these and others are shown, clear, yet soft, vigorous in the foreground, delicately distinct in the distance, in a perfection of art which compares with the finest European work.
The “ London Stereoscopic Company ” has produced some very beautiful paper stereographs, very dear, but worth their cost, of the Great Exhibition. There is one view, which we are fortunate enough to possess, that is a marvel of living detail,—one of the series showing the opening ceremonies. The picture gives principally the musicians. By careful counting, we find there are six hundred faces to the square inch in the more crowded portion of the scene which the view embraces, — a part occupied by the female singers. These singers are all clad in white, and packed with great compression of crinoline, — if that, indeed, were worn on the occasion. Mere points as their faces seem to the naked eye, the stereoscope, and still more a strong magnifier, shows them with their mouths all open as they join in the chorus, and with such distinctness that some of them might readily be recognized by those familiar with their aspect. This, it is to be remembered, is not a reduced stereograph for the microscope, but a common one, taken as we see them taken constantly.
We find in the same series several very good views of Gibson’s famous colored “ Venus,” a lady with a pleasant face and a very pretty pair of shoulders. But the grand “ Cleopatra ” of our countryman, Mr. Story, of which we have heard so much, was not to be had, — why not we cannot say, for a stereograph of it would have had an immense success in America, and doubtless everywhere.
The London Stereoscopic Company has also furnished us with views of Paris, many of them instantaneous, far in advance of the earlier ones of Parisian origin. Our darling little church of St. Etienne du Mont, for instance, with its staircase and screen of stone embroidery, its carved oaken pulpit borne on the back of a carved oaken Samson, its old monuments, its stained windows, is brought back to us in all its minute detail as we remember it in many a visit made on our way back from the morning’s work at La Pitie to the late breakfast at the Cafe Procope. Some of the instantaneous views are of great perfection, and carry us as fairly upon the Boulevards as Mr. Anthony transports us to Broadway. "With the exception of this series, we have found very fewnew stereoscopic pictures in the market for the last year or two. This is not so much owing to the increased expense of importing foreign views as to the greater popularity of card-portraits, which, as everybody knows, have become the social currency, the sentimental “green-backs” of civilization, within a very recent period.
We, who have exhausted our terms of admiration in describing the stereoscopic picture, will not quarrel with the common taste which prefers the card-portrait. The last is the cheapest, the most portable, requires no machine to look at it with, can be seen by several persons at the same time,—in short, has all the popular elements. Many care little for the wonders of the world brought before their eyes by the stereoscope ; all love to see the faces of their friends. Jonathan does not think a great deal of the Venus of Milo, but falls into raptures over a cardportrait of his Jerusha. So far from finding fault with him, we rejoice rather that his affections and those of average mortality are better developed than their taste ; and lost as we sometimes are in contemplation of the shadowy masks of ugliness which hang in the frames of the photographers, as the skins of beasts are stretched upon tanners’ fences, we still feel grateful, when we remember the days of itinerant portrait-painters, that the indignities of Nature are no longer intensified by the outrages of Art.
The sitters who throng the photographer’s establishment are a curious study. They are of all ages, from the babe in arms to the old wrinkled patriarchs and dames whose smiles have as many furrows as an ancient elm has rings that count its summers. The sun is a Rembrandt in his way, and loves to track all the lines in these old splintered faces. A photograph of one of them is like one of those fossilized sea-beaches where the raindrops have left their marks, and the shellfish the grooves in which they crawled, and the wading birds the divergent lines of their foot-prints,—tears, cares, griefs, once vanishing as impressions from the sand, now fixed as the vestiges in the sand-stone.
Attitudes, dresses, features, hands, feet, betray the social grade of the candidates for portraiture. The picture tells no lie about them. There is no use in their putting on airs ; the make-believe gentleman and lady cannot look like the genuine article. Mediocrity shows itself for what it is worth, no matter what temporary name it may have acquired. Illtemper cannot hide itself under the simper of assumed amiability. The querulousness of incompetent complaining natures confesses itself almost as much as in the tones of the voice. The anxiety which strives to smooth its forehead cannot get rid of the telltale furrow. The weakness which belongs to the infirm of purpose and vacuous of thought is hardly to be disguised, even though the moustache is allowed to hide the centre of expression.
All parts of a face doubtless have their fixed relations to each other and to the character of the person to whom the face belongs. But there is one feature, and especially one part of that feature, which more than any other facial sign reveals the nature of the individual. The feature is the mouth, and the portion of it referred to is the corner. A circle of half an inch radius, having its centre at the junction of the two lips will include the chief focus of expression.
This will he easily understood, if we reliect that here is the point where more muscles of expression converge than at any other. From above comes the elevator of the angle of the mouth ; from the region of the cheek-bone slant downwards the two zygomatics, which carry the angle outwards and upwards; from behind comes the buccinator, or trumpeter’s muscle, which simply widens the mouth by drawing the corners straight outward; from below, the depressor of the angle; not to add a seventh, sometimes well marked,—the “laughing muscle” of Santorini. Within the narrow circle where these muscles meet the ring of muscular fibres surrounding the mouth the battles of the soul record their varying fortunes and results. This is the “ naud vital,” — to borrow Flourens’s expression with reference to a nervous centre, — the vital knot of expression. Here we may read the victories and defeats, the force, the weakness, the hardness, the sweetness of a character. Here is the nest of that feeble fowl, self-consciousness, whose brood strays at large over all the features.
If you wish to see the very look your friend wore when his portrait was taken, let not the finishing artist’s pencil intrude within the circle of the vital knot of expression.
We have learned many curious facts from photographic portraits which we were slow to learn from faces. One is the great number of aspects belonging to each countenance with which we are familiar. Sometimes, in looking at a portrait, it seems to us that this is just the face we know, and that it is always thus. But again another view shows us a wholly different aspect, and yet as absolutely characteristic as the first; and a third and a fourth convince us that our friend was not one, but many, in outward appearance, as in the mental and emotional shapes by which his inner nature made itself known to us.
Another point which must have struck everybody who has studied photographic portraits is the family likeness that shows itself throughout a whole wide connection. We notice it more readily than in life, from the fact that we bring many of these family-portraits together and study them more at our ease. There is something in the face that corresponds to tone in the voice,—recognizable, not capable of description ; and this kind of resemblance in the faces of kindred we may observe, though the features are unlike. But the features themselves are wonderfully tenacious of their old patterns. The Prince of Wales is getting to look like George III. We noticed it when he was in this country; we see it more plainly in his recent photographs. Governor Endicott’s features have come straight down to some of his descendants in the present day. There is a dimpled chin which runs through one family connection we have studied, and a certain form of lip which belongs to another. As our cheval de bataille stands ready saddled and bridled for us just now, we must indulge ourselves in mounting him for a brief excursion. This is a story we have told so often that we should begin to doubt it but for the fact that we have before us the written statement of the person who was its subject. His professor, who did not know his name or anything about him, stopped him one day after lecture and asked him if he was not a relation of Mr. -, a person of some note in Essex County. — Not that he had ever heard of. — The professor thought he must be,—would he inquire ? — Two or three days afterwards, having made inquiries at his home in Middlesex County, he reported that an elder member of the family informed him that Mr. •——’s great-grandfather on his mother’s side and his own great-grandfather on his father’s side were own cousins. The whole class of facts, of which this seems to us too singular an instance to be lost, is forcing itself into notice, with new Strength of evidence, through the galleries of photographic family-portraits which are making everywhere.
In the course of a certain number of years there will have been developed some new physiognomical results, which will prove of extreme interest to the physiologist and the moralist. They will take time ; for, to bring some of them out fully, a generation must be followed from its cradle to its grave.
The first is a precise study of the effects of age upon the features. Many series of portraits taken at short intervals through life, studied carefully side by side, will probably show to some acute observer that Nature is very exact in the tallies that mark the years of human life.
The second is to result from a course of investigations which we would rather indicate than follow out; for, if the student of it did not fear the fate of Phalaris, — that he should find himself condemned as unlifeworthy upon the basis of his own observations, — he would very certainly become the object of eternal hatred to the proprietors of all the semi-organizations which he felt obliged to condemn. It consists in the study of the laws of physical degeneration,—the stages and manifestations of the process by which Nature dismantles the complete and typical human organism, until it becomes too bad for her own sufferance, and she kills it off before the advent of the reproductive period, that it may not permanently depress her average of vital force by taking part in the life of the race. There are many signs that fall far short of the marks of cretinism,—yet just as plain as that is to the visus eruditus,—which one meets every hour of the day in every circle of society. Many of these are partial arrests of development. We do not care to mention all which we think may be recognized, but there is one which we need not hesitate to speak of from the fact that it is so exceedingly common.
The vertical part of the lower jaw is short, and the angle of the jaw is obtuse, in infancy. When the physical development is complete, the lower jaw, which, as the active partner in the business of mastication, must be developed in proportion to the vigor of the nutritive apparatus, comes down by a rapid growth which gives the straight-cut posterior line and the bold right angle so familiar to us in the portraits of pugilists, exaggerated by the caricaturists in their portraits of fighting men, and noticeable in welldeveloped persons of all classes. But in imperfectly grown adults the jaw retains the infantile character, — the short vertical portion necessarily implying the obtuse angle. The upper jaw at the same time fails to expand laterally: in vigorous organisms it spreads out boldly, and the teeth stand square and with space enough; whereas in subvitalized persons it remains narrow, as in the child, so that the large front teeth are crowded, or slanted forward, or thrown out of line. This want of lateral expansion is frequently seen in the jaws, upper and lower, of the American, and has been considered a common cause of caries of the teeth.
A third series of results will relate to the effect of character in moulding the features. Go through a “rogues’ gallery ” and observe what the faces of the most hardened villains have in common. All these villanous looks have been shaped out of the unmeaning lineaments of infancy. The police-officers know well enough the expression of habitual crime. Now, if all this series of faces had been carefully studied in photographs from the days of innocence to those of confirmed guilt, there is no doubt that a keen eye might recognize, we will not say the first evil volition in the change it wrought upon the face, nor each successive stage in the downward process of the falling nature, but epochs and eras, with differential marks, as palpable perhaps as those which separate the aspects of the successive decades of life. And what is far pleasanter, when the character of a neglected and vitiated child is raised by wise culture, the converse change will be found — nay, has been found —to record itself unmistakably upon the faithful page of the countenance ; so that charitable institutions have learned that their strongest appeal lies in the request, “ Look on this picture, and on that,” — the lawless boy at his entrance, and the decent youth at his dismissal.
The field of photography is extending itself to embrace subjects of strange and sometimes of fearful interest. We have referred in a former article to a Stereograph in a friend’s collection showing the bodies of the slain heaped up for burial after the Battle of Malignano. We have now before us a series of photographs showing the field of Antietam and the surrounding country, as they appeared after the great battle of the 17 th of September. These terrible mementos of one of the most sanguinary conflicts of the war we owe to the enterprise of Mr. Brady of New York. We ourselves were on the field upon the Sunday following the Wednesday when the battle took place. It is not, however, for ns to bear witness to the fidelity of views which the truthful sunbeam has delineated in all their dread reality. The photographs bear witness to the accuracy of some of our own sketches in a paper published in the December number of this magazine. The “ ditch ” is figured, still encumbered with the dead, and strewed, as we saw it and the neighboring fields, with fragments and tatters. The “colonel’s gray horse” is given in another picture just as we saw him lying.
Let him who wishes to know what war is look at this series of illustrations. These wrecks of manhood thrown together in careless heaps or ranged in ghastly rows for burial were alive but yesterday. How dear to their little circles far away most of them! — how little eared for here by the tired party whose office it is to consign them to the earth! An officer may here and there be recognized ; but for the rest — if enemies, they will be counted, and that is all. “ 80 Rebels are buried in this hole ” was one of the epitaphs we read and recorded. Many people would not look through this series. Many, having seen it and dreamed of its horrors, would lock it up in some secret drawer, that it might not thrill or revolt those whose soul sickens at such sights. It was so nearly like visiting the battlefield to look over these views, that all the emotions excited by the actual sight of the stained and sordid scene, strewed with rags and wrecks, came back to us, and we buried them in the recesses of our cabinet as we would have buried the mutilated remains of the dead they too vividly represented. Yet war and battles should have truth for their delineator. It is well enough for some Baron Gros or Horace Vernet to please an imperial master with fanciful portraits of what they are supposed to be. The honest sunshine
and that gives us, even without the crimson coloring which flows over the recent picture, some conception of what a repulsive, brutal, sickening, hideous thing it is, this dashing together of two frantic mobs to which we give the name of armies. The end to be attained justifies the means, we are willing to believe; but the sight of these pictures is a commentary on civilization such as a savage might well triumph to show its missionaries. Yet through such martyrdom must come our redemption. War is the surgery' of crime. Bad as it is in itself, it always implies that something worse has gone before. Where is the American, worthy of his privileges, who does not now recognize the fact, if never until now, that the disease of our nation was organic, not functional, calling for the knife, and not for washes and anodynes ?
It is a relief to soar away from the contemplation of these sad scenes and fly in the balloon which carried Messrs. King and Black in their aerial photographic excursion. Our townsman, Dr. John Jeffries, as is well recollected, was one of the first to tempt the perilous heights of the atmosphere, and the first who ever performed a journey through the air of any considerable extent. We believe this attempt of our younger townsmen to be the earliest in which the aeronaut has sought to work the two miracles at once, of rising against the force of gravity, and picturing the face of the earth beneath him without brush or pencil.
One of their photographs is lying before us. Boston, as the eagle and the wild goose see it, is a very different object from the same place as the solid citizen looks up at its eaves and chimneys. The Old South and Trinity Church are two landmarks not to be mistaken. Washington Street slants across the picture as a narrow cleft. Milk Street winds as if the cowpath which gave it a name had been followed by the builders of its commercial palaces. Windows, chimneys, and skylights attract the eye in the central parts of the view, exquisitely defined, bewildering in numbers. Towards the circumference it grows darker, becoming clouded and confused, and at one end a black expanse of waveless water is whitened by the nebulous outline of flitting sails. As a first attempt it is on the whole a remarkable success; but its greatest interest is in showing what we may hope to see accomplished in the same direction.
While the aeronaut is looking at our planet from the vault of heaven where he hangs suspended, and seizing the image of the scene beneath him as he flies, the astronomer is causing the Heavenly bodies to print their images on the sensitive sheet he spreads under the rays concentrated by his telescope. We have formerly taken occasion to speak of the wonderful stereoscopic figures of the moon taken by Mr. De la Rue in England, by Mr. Rutherford and by Mr. Whipple in this country'. To these most successful experiments must be added that of Dr. Henry Draper, who has constructed a reflecting telescope, with the largest silver reflector in the world, except that of the Imperial Observatory at Paris, for the special purpose of celestial photography. The reflectors made by Dr. Draper “will show Debilissima quadruple, and easily' bring out the companion of Sirius or the sixth star In the trapezium of Orion.” In taking photographs from these mirrors, a movement of the sensitive plate of only one-hundredth of an inch will render the image perceptibly less sharp. It was this accuracy of convergence of the light which led Dr. Draper to prefer the mirror to the achromatic lens. He has taken almost all the daily phases of the moon, from the sixth to the twenty-seventh day, using mostly some of Mr. Anthony’s quick collodion, and has repeatedly obtained the full moon by means of it in one-tlnrd of a second.
In the last “ Annual of Scientific Discovery” are interesting notices of photographs of the sun, showing the spots on his disk, of Jupiter with his belts, and Saturn with his ring.
While the astronomer has been reducing the heavenly bodies to the dimensions of his stereoscopic slide, the anatomist has been lifting the invisible by the aid of his microscope into palpable dimensions, to remain permanently recorded in the handwriting of the sun himself. Eighteen years ago, M. Donne published in Paris a series of plates executed after figures obtained by the process of Daguerre. These, which we have long employed in teaching, give some pretty good views of various organic elements, but do not attempt to reproduce any of the tissues. Professor O. N. Hood, of Troy, has sent us some most interesting photographs, showing the markings of infusoria enormously magnified and perfectly defined. In a stereograph sent us by the same gentleman the epithelium scales from mucous membrane are shown floating or half-submerged in fluid, — a very curious effect, requiring the double image to produce it. Of all the microphotographs we have seen, those made by Dr. John Dean, of Boston, from his own sections of the spinal cord, are the most remarkable for the light they throw on the minute structure of the body. The sections made by Dr. Dean are in themselves very beautiful specimens, and have formed the basis of a communication to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in which many new observations have been added to our knowledge of this most complicated structure. But figures drawn from images seen in the field of the microscope have too often been known to borrow a good deal from the imagination of the beholder. Some objects are so complex that they defy the most cunning hand to render them with all their features. When the enlarged image is suffered to delineate itself, as in Dr. Dean’s views of the medulla oblongata., there is no room to question the exactness of the portraiture, and the distant student is able to form his. own opinion as well as the original observer. These later achievements of Dr. Dean have excited much attention here and in Europe, and point to a new epoch of anatomical and physiological delineation.
The reversed method of microscopic phonography is that which gives portraits and documents in little. The best specimen of this kind wo have obtained is another of those miracles which recall the wonders of Arabian fiction. On a slip of glass, three inches long by one broad, is a circle of thinner glass, as large as a ten-cent piece. In the centre of this is a speck, as if a fly had stepped there without scraping his foot before setting it down. On putting this under a microscope magnifying fifty diameters there come into view the Declaration of Independence in full, in a clear, bold type, every name signed in fac-simile ; the arms of all the States, easily made out, and well finished; with good portraits of all the Presidents, down to a recent date. Any person familiar with the faces of the Presidents would recognize any one of these portraits in a moment.
Still another application of photography, becoming every day more and more familiar to the public, is that which produces enlarged portraits, even lifesize ones, from the old daguerreotype or more recent photographic miniature. As we have seen this process, a closet is arranged as a camera-obscura, and the enlarged image is thrown down through a lens above on a sheet of sensitive paper placed on a table capable of being easily elevated or depressed. The image, weakened by diffusion over so large a space, prints itself slowly, but at last comes out with a clearness which is surprising,— a fact which is parallel to what is observed in the stereoscopticon, where a picture of a few square inches in size is “ extended ” or diluted so as to cover some hundreds of square feet, and yet preserves its sharpness to a degree which seems incredible.
The copying of documents to be used as evidence is another most important application of photography. No scribe, however skilful, could reproduce such a paper as we saw submitted to our fellowworkman in Mr. Black's establishment the other day. It contained perhaps a hundred names and marks, but smeared, spotted, soiled, rubbed, and showing every awkward shape of penmanship that a miscellaneous collection of half-educated persons could furnish. No one, on looking at the photographic copy, could doubt that it was a genuine reproduction of a real list of signatures; and when half a dozen such copies, all just alike, were shown, the conviction became a certainty that all had a common origin. This copy was made with a Harrison’s globe lens of sixteen inches' focal length, and was a very sharp and accurate duplicate of the original. It is claimed for this now Ameriean invention that it is “quite ahead of anything European ”; and the certificates from the United States CoastSurvey Office go far towards sustaining its pretensions.
Some of our readers are aware that photographic operations are not confined to the delineation of material objects. There are certain establishments in which, for an extra consideration, (on account of the difficilis ascensus, or other long journey they have to take,) the spirits of the departed appear in the same picture which gives the surviving friends. The actinic influence of a ghost on a sensitive plate is not so strong as might be desired ; but considering that spirits are so nearly immaterial, that the stars, as Ossian tells us, can be seen through their vaporous outlines, the effect is perhaps as good as ought to be expected.
Mrs. Brown, for instance, has lost her infant, and wishes to have its spirit-portrait taken with her own. A special sitting is granted, and a special fee is paid. In due time the photograph is ready, and, sure enough, there is the misty image of an infant in the background, or, it may be, across the mother’s lap. Whether the original of the image was a month or a year old, whether it belonged to Mrs. Brown or Mrs. Jones or Mrs. Robinson, King Solomon, who could point out so sagaciously the parentage of unauthenticated babies, would be puzzled to guess. But it is enough for the poor mother, whose eyes are blinded with tears, that she sees a print of drapery like an infant’s dress, and a rounded something, like a foggy dumpling, which will stand for a face : she accepts the spirit-portrait as a revelation from the world of shadows. Those who have seen shapes in the clouds, or remember Hamlet and Polonius, or who have noticed how readily untaught eyes see a portrait of parent, spouse, or child in almost any daub intended for the same, will understand how easily the weak people who resort to these places are deluded.
There are various ways of producing the spirit-photographs. One of the easiest is this. First procure a bereaved subject with a mind “ sensitized ” by long immersion in credulity. Find out the age, sex, and whatever else you can, about his or her departed relative. Select from your numerous negatives one that corresponds to the late lamented as nearly as may be. Prepare a sensitive plate. Now place the negative against it and hold it up close to your gas-lamp, which may be turned up pretty high. In this way you get a foggy copy of the negative in one part of the sensitive plate, which you can then place in the camera and take your flesh-andblood sitter’s portrait upon it in the usual way. An appropriate background for these pictures is a view of the asylum for feeble-minded persons, the group of buildings at Somerville, and possibly, if the penitentiary could be introduced, the hint would be salutary.
The number of amateur artists in photography is continually increasing. The interest we ourselves have taken in some results of photographic art has brought us under a weight of obligation to many of them which we can hardly expect to discharge. Some of the friends in our immediate neighborhood have sent us photographs of their own making which for clearness and purity of tone compare favorably with the best professional work. Among our more distant correspondents there are two so widely known to photographers that we need not hesitate to name them: Mr. Coleman Sellers of Philadelphia and Mr. S. Wager Hull of New York. Many beautiful specimens of photographic art have been sent us by these gentlemen, — among others, some exquisite views of Sunnyside and of the scene of Ichabod Crane’s adventures. Mr. Hull has also furnished us with a full account of the dry process, as followed by him, and from which he brings out results hardly surpassed by any method.
A photographic intimacy between two persons who never saw each other’s faces (that is, in Nature’s original positive, the principal use of which, after all, is to furnish negatives from which portraits may be taken) is a new form of friendship. After an introduction by means of a few views of scenery or other impersonal objects, with a letter or two of explanation, the artist sends his own presentment, not in the stiff shape of a purchased carte de visite, but as seen in his own study or parlor, surrounded by the domestic accidents which so add to the individuality of the student or the artist. You see him at his desk or table with his books and stereoscopes round him ; you notice the lamp by which he reads, — the objects lying about; you guess his condition, whether married or single; you divine his tastes, apart from that which he has in common with yourself. By-and-by, as he warms towards you, he sends you the picture of what lies next to his heart, — a lovely boy, for instance, such as laughs upon us in the delicious portrait on which we are now looking, or an old homestead, fragrant with all the roses of his dead summers, caught in one of Nature’s loving moments, with the sunshine gilding it like the light of his own memory. And so these shadows have made him with his outer and his inner life a reality for you ; and but for his voice, which you have never heard, you know him better than hundreds who call him by name, as they meet him year after year, and reckon him among their familiar acquaintances.
To all these friends of ours, those whom we have named, and not less those whom we have silently remembered, we send our grateful acknowledgments. They have never allowed the interest we have long taken in the miraculous art of photography to slacken. Though not one of them may learn anything from this simple account we have given, they will perhaps allow that it has a certain value for less instructed readers, in consequence of its numerous and rich omissions of much which, however valuable, is not at first indispensable.