Skip to main content

Latent Image

The concept of the photographic latent image is characterized by B. Newhall as: " a relatively week light signal is amplified enormously by development" (1)

The action of light in the sensitized plate, paper or film is just the initial stage towards the formation of the photographic image, a process that must be complemented by development. The concept, according to Newhall, was announced by Talbot in 1841. Previously, Talbot allowed the action of light to be prolonged until the image appeared. The new procedure greatly reduced the necessary exposure time.

The idea that a feeble image can be "increased, brought out, and strengthened" after the completion of the exposure process, was part of the daguerreotype process, as Talbot himself noted in an address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, after Daguerre´s disclosure of his invention. (2) It was in fact the pioneer discovery of Niépce in the 1820s. (3)

The pictures from the Salomon Andree expedition to the North Pole in 1897 are examples of the stability of the latent image. The expedition ended with the death of the explorers. Their remains were only found in 1930. And among the materials recovered, there were photographic plates which were successfully developed 33 years after being exposed.

(1) History of Photography: From 1839 to the Present
by Beaumont Newhal, New York, 1997 (5th edition) , p. 43.

History of Photography: From 1839 to the Present
by Beaumont Newhal, p.25

(3) Photography by Eric de Maré, London, 1980, p. 20.

The Örnen (Eagle) shortly after its descent onto pack ice.
Photographs by Nils Strindberg, member of the
S. A. Andrée's Arctic balloon expedition of 1897



Popular posts from this blog

Group f/64 Manifesto (1932)

Ansel Adams by Dorothea Lange

Group f/64 Manifesto
The name of this Group is derived from a diaphragm number of the photographic lens. It signifies to a large extent the qualities of clearness and definition of the photographic image which is an important element in the work of members of this Group.
The chief object of the Group is to present in frequent shows what it considers the best contemporary photography of the West; in addition to the showing of the work of its members, it will include prints from other photographers who evidence tendencies in their work similar to that of the Group.
Group f/64 is not pretending to cover the entire of photography or to indicate through its selection of members any deprecating opinion of the photographers who are not included in its shows. There are great number of serious workers in photography whose style and technique does not relate to the metier of the Group.
Group f/64 limits its members and invitational names to those workers who are strivin…

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882)

Alexander Gardner
The home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg

Alexander Gardner Dead Confederate sharpshooter at the foot of Round Top.  Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1863. Alexander Gardner.
Richmond, Virginia. "Ruins of Gallego Mills." April 1865

The Lincoln Conspirators, 1865

Alexander Gardner, Lincoln 1865

The Daguerreotype portrait: the aesthetics of the real

The notion of what we may call an “artless art” was applied at different times, and with different intentions, to photography and the Daguerreotype. The image produced “directly” by nature, bypassing the intervention of the hand of the artist, was the object of amazement at first, and praised for its astounding fidelity of detail: an “art form” therefore that “no painter could ever match”. 
The popularization of the daguerreotype as the 19th century progressed, brought about by technical improvements allowing for the mass production of images and specially, for the first time, the mass production of portraits, produced also as a counter-current, a kind of  “over familiarity” with the daguerreotype portrait. And with it, a relative weariness about the repetitious, the unstudied, the narrowly documentary and "vulgar" or commonplace qualities (issues only partially explained by inherent  limitations of the Daguerreotype technique for portraiture, such as exposure time requiremen…