||y 1846 he had made his home at
number 42 Darlington Street, Wolverhampton and
| became interested in the artistic
possibilities of photography. Nicholas Henneman, who had a
studio in Regent Street, London was an expert photographer
and gave lessons at his studio. In 1853 Rejlander arrived at
Henneman’s studio and asked if he could have some lessons in
photography, the same day, before he caught the evening
train back to Wolverhampton.
He spent the afternoon learning some of the secrets of the new art form and
realised how much there was to learn. He was given three hours tuition on
the calotype process and half an hour on how to produce a wet plate.
The calotype was developed by Fox Talbot. It was the first process to use a
negative, which was made from paper. The texture of the paper prevented the
reproduction of fine detail but the end result could be quite pleasing. A
superior process called the wet collodion or wet-plate process appeared in the
early 1850s. It gave a superior, virtually grain-free image with a much shorter
exposure time and could produce either a positive or negative result. It used a
glass plate which was sensitised to light by the photographer. One surface of
the glass plate was evenly coated with a solution of collodian dissolved in
ether and when nearly dry it was plunged into a bath containing silver nitrate,
for about two minutes. The plate was then ready to be inserted in the camera.
After exposure the plate was developed in a bath of pyrogallic acid and the low
contrast image was further enhanced by immersion in a weak solution of silver
nitrate. This produced the negative, which was then either projected onto the
surface of a sheet of photographic paper or contact printed directly onto it. At
this time the photographic paper would have been made by the photographer who
would sensitise a sheet of suitable paper by coating it with silver nitrate. The
photographer also had to make his own developer and fixer for the final print.
In those days photography was very different from what we are familiar with
The site of Rejlander's studio.
|Oscar’s friends in Wolverhampton included William
Parke, who ran a bookshop in the town and was part-owner of the
Wolverhampton Chronicle. Parke helped Rejlander financially and
found people who wanted their photograph taken. Part of the
sponsorship consisted of regular articles in the Chronicle.
|The Chronicle included several references to
Rejlander’s involvement in some of the local culture in the
town. In 1853 ninety people, mostly men, gave from 1 guinea to
£100 as a donation or annual subscription to the Practical
School of Art. Rejlander was one of the four people who gave an
annual subscription of 1 guinea. He is also one of the people
listed as attending a public lunch that was held at the Exchange
to celebrate the opening of the ‘Government School of Practical
Art for Wolverhampton and S. Staffs’ on August 1st
1854. In 1856 he is listed as one of the 12 members of the
Council of the School of Practical Art for the session 1858 – 59
but is not included in its members for the session 1860–61.
This commemorative plaque is situated near
to the site of Rejlander's studio.
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