On Wednesday week a soirée was given by the Society of Arts, at which
the leading photographers were present, and recent specimens of photography
shown ; it being the first public exhibition of these pictures in the country;
yet there together a nune7ouh these pictures in this country. The time allowed
between the adoption of the suggestion and the completion of the design was
exceedingly short; yet there has been gathered together a number collection,
possessing many examples of the capabilities of photography and exhibiting at
the same time its more prominent defects. It should be remarked that the
exhibition has been confined to productions on paper and on glass, to the entire
exclusion of Daguerreotypes. We are not satisfied that this is judicious ; for,
notwithstanding the nu merous advantages arising from the use of paper, there
are points of excellence in well-executed pictures upon the metallic tablets,
which have not been, as yet, approached upon paper, and of which those who
practise the Talbotype should be constantly reminded.
It appeals that the large majority of the exhibitors have forgotten one point, and that is one, too, upon which entirely perfection in photography depends. A stranger to the art, looking around the room, will not fail to remark that the high lights and the shadows are often placed in the most striking and even disagreeable contrast. When the sum is shining upon the ornamented front of a palace or a temple, the details of all those portions which are shaded by the deep shadow of projections are still sufficiently illuminated by the diffused light of the sky to be seen with their minutest details. Such a subject, copied by the photographic processes employed, is usually a compound of "high" white lights and deep obscure shadows; whereas a little careful attention to the existing conditions would have prevented this. The usual practice has been to remove the primary picture from the camera-obscura as soon as it was thought the sunlit portion of the subject had made its chemical impression, and at a period far too short. for those parts in shadow to effect a chemical change. It would, however, he found in practice that a prolonged exposure to the radiations from those points the most highly illuminated, which might equal the extra time required for the dimly-lighted parts to paint themselves, would not so far increase the opacity of those parts of the negative image as to render them whiter than we now find them in the positive copy ; while the details in shadow might he brought out in perfection.
Though the excellence of the specimens now exhibited," says Mr. Fenton, "might allow photographers the indulgence of a little self-complacency, still everybody feels that, as an art, it is yet in its infancy, and that the uses to which it may be applied will yet be multiplied tenfold. We feel conscious of this ; and when we examine pictures produced by the chemical agency of the sunbeam, giving us every external detail with mathematical exactitude, and adding thereto the charms of "airy distance" with the harmonious gradation of light and shadow - of such there are many examples in the exhibition - we foresee that the art must become one of the utmost utility.
Illustrated London News, 1852