The Negative

Glass Plate Negative

Other than the very first type of photograph, the Daguerreotype, the photographic image first was captured on a negative. The earliest negatives were glass plate. It wasn't until 1889 that the first flexible film or Nitrocellulose/Nitrate film was invented by Eastman Kodak in 1889.

Mathew Brady - Civil War Photographer

Although I didn't know his name, as a student of history, I have been in awe of his photographs for decades.

Mathew Brady opened his first photographic office in 1844. To his studios in New York and Washington, D. C., flocked politicians, generals, actors, and actresses. Anyone who was anyone sat to “have their likeness taken” by Brady and his assistants, several of whom, including Timothy O’Sullivan and Alexander Gardner, were destined for fame in their own right.

Taking a Panoramic Photograph

1906 Ballon Panorama of SF Fire damage

Several years ago, I had a researcher bring in a panorama photograph. These photos are familiar to me, commonly used to take photos of large groups of people, but this researcher asked more than "what is this". He asked me, "how was it made". With a bit of hunting I found the Library of Congress's 1992 reenactment of taking a panoramic photos. They used a Cirkut camera, c. 1890.


One side of a very clean glass plate is covered with a thin layer of collodion, then dipped in a silver nitrate solution. The plate is exposed to while still wet. (Also known as a "wet plate" process) The plate is then developed and fixed. The resulting negative, when viewed against a black background, appears to be a positive image. The back is usually coated with black varnish or mounted in the case against a black cloth, making the image appear quite dark.

The Ambrotype is much less expensive to produce than the Daguerreotype.