Dating in the dark britain

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Around 1850, photos were produced which were actually weak negatives on glass but, when backed with a dark material or black paint, appeared as normal positive images: these were ambrotypes.Both ambrotypes and daguerreotypes can be found in maroon ‘leather’ cases or highly ornate Union Cases made from a shiny and brittle thermoplastic material.Robert Balson could not have known, as he took his place at the monthly Shambles, that his descendants would carry on the trade for five centuries.But for Richard, there is a more pressing concern than the weight of the past.

This was a much cheaper process and allowed copies to be taken from a negative.

Up to this stage, photos were generally one-offs, there was no negative and multiple copies were impracticable.

Any copies required had to be photographed from the original – often with a distinct loss of quality.

There are others such as the early calotype and the revolutionary 1904 colour images called Autochromes but these are rather unusual.

Whatever you have in your family collection, the key thing is to look after those precious images in your care – for now and for future generations.

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