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Just wondering... ...could photography be invented now?

Discussion in 'Everything Film' started by Malcolm_Stewart, Feb 22, 2019.

  1. Malcolm_Stewart

    Malcolm_Stewart Well-Known Member

    Photography as we know it was essentially invented by Fox Talbot (I do know about Niépce & Daguerre) and we're here as a result of his invention. Since the 1830-40s much has changed, and in particular in the last 70 or so years, easy access to a range of chemicals has been restricted to "professionals". As a teenager, I had my own chemistry lab in the garden shed, and I was able to purchase both dilute and strong mineral acids. Many of the common ones were available at Boots the Chemists, but not today. More potent chemicals were available from Flatters & Garnett opposite Manchester University, as well as dead frogs for dissection. Some "poisons" were available by signing the poisons register. I certainly didn't make any discoveries, but I did learn a healthy respect for strong acids and alkalis. Some "nasty" chemicals are still available, but you don't find them conveniently together as I did back in the 1950s.

    None of this is available today to non-professionals and I do wonder if we're lucky that the effects of light on silver salts were spotted when they were...by gentlemen scientists with time on their hands, unregulated supplies of a range of chemicals, and a thirst for knowledge.
    (Nowadays, try aquatic supplies for formalin, and the DIY stores for impure hydrochloric acid sold as Spirits of Salt, or "Brick Cleaner".)
  2. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    The point being: that was then and this is now. It's like speculating on whether trains would be invented now that we have planes, buses and cars. Things just happen when they happen and don't need to happen when they've already happened.
    Roger Hicks likes this.
  3. El_Sid

    El_Sid Well-Known Member

    Bearing in mind the nature of some of the chemical involved in the photographic process would anyone be allowed to use the process if were to be invented today?... I imagine that everything involved would be required to meet CoSHH, Reach and heaven knows how many other regulations before they could be used - and probably only then under licence... ;)
  4. Malcolm_Stewart

    Malcolm_Stewart Well-Known Member

    That, I think is what was behind my thoughts. I just hope that nationally, we don't lose out too much to "less developed" countries which may be less constrained than we now are.

    (COSHH came in when I moved away from purely avionic engineering to more general Health & Safety, & Environmental matters etc., and I think only two of us out of 600 on site, were in any way able to understand what the Regulations meant.)
  5. SXH

    SXH Well-Known Member

    James May asked a similar question about the motor car in one of his BBC/OU programmes: Would modern H&S laws allow you to drive around in a vehicle carrying several gallons of a highly volatile, explosively inflammable liquid and which needed lots of sites where there were thousands of gallons of the stuff, so that you could refill your tank?
    swanseadave likes this.
  6. swanseadave

    swanseadave Well-Known Member

    ....when you put it like that................:eek:sounds highly dangerous.
  7. Chester AP

    Chester AP Well-Known Member

    Would digital photography have been invented if 'chemical' photography did not already exist?
    Somehow I think the creative leap direct from painted images to digital ones would be unlikely.

    Also, digital photography isn't 'chemical free': the sensor and battery manufacturing processes use some nasty stuff.
    Roger Hicks likes this.
  8. Petrochemist

    Petrochemist Well-Known Member

    I don't think it's right at all to claim Fox Talbot originated modern photography.
    Right back in 1614 Angelo Sala noticed silver nitrate was darkened by sunlight
    in 1717 Johann Schulze saw an image of a window cord in his bottle if silver salts
    1816 Niepce made unfixed images on paper coated with silver halides, several years before his more famous permanent images.

    Fox Talbot's was just following up on these earlier developments though, he was responsible for introducing a 2 stage negative & print approach.

    Some of the early processes didn't use any nocuous chemicals, some used only compounds that could be produced at home - Garnier's carbon printing for example.

    wrt the limited availability of chemicals, I think I can get (at work) any of the chemicals used in photography. I can certainly get concentrated acids, I have to every couple of years for sample preparative reasons...
  9. Petrochemist

    Petrochemist Well-Known Member

    The levels of benzene in typical petrol are actually high enough that it would be illegal to sell it to the general public, it has a special dispensation. This causes issues if you sell improved racing fuels and just use your trade name for the fuel.
    It is necessary to add the proper shipping name 'petrol' &/or 'gasoline' to the label. (Even when the improved fuel has less than 1/10 the benzene regulations allow)
  10. Malcolm_Stewart

    Malcolm_Stewart Well-Known Member

    I chose Fox Talbot because to the best of my knowledge, he was the first to make good use of the negative -positive process, and thereby made something available which was recognisably similar to when I was busy in the darkroom in the 1980s. And, I also believe that it was this which led to the commercial success of photography.
  11. steveandthedogs

    steveandthedogs Well-Known Member

    And don't forget Thomas Wedgwood.

  12. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    I read ages ago that the only reason the 'west' overtook the inventiveness of the Chinese was because having invented porcelain, they solved enough issues with it as a material, that they never needed to go on and invent glass. Consequetnly it was in the west that brains were able to keep working long after eyesight had failed, and scientific experiements that relied on liquids being heated to very high temperatures could do so because of the specific properties of glass. Things happen when they happen and because of the specific circumstances nad needs of their inventors.
  13. Done_rundleCams

    Done_rundleCams AP Forum Ambassador to Canada

    No !


  14. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    If you haven't already read it you may want to get hold of a book called "Connections" by James Burke. It's based on a BBC TV series of the same name that he presented. It explores how inventions come about because of work by several people other than the inventor. His premise is that our whole civilisation is based on a complex web of interactions and no-one has invented anything truly original for hundreds (or possibly thousands) of years.
    Geren and Done_rundleCams like this.
  15. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    I'll check it out. Sounds like the sort of thing I'd enjoy.
  16. El_Sid

    El_Sid Well-Known Member

    Don't remember whether I ever had the book but I remember the TV series, one I really enjoyed. Can't help wondering if anyone could make a program like that now...;):D
  17. Malcolm_Stewart

    Malcolm_Stewart Well-Known Member

    Time passes. I'm afraid that now I only remember the name of the programme / series.

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