In the Eye of the Camera, 1840-1867
Our photographic window on the Victorians has coloured our view of their world. It is often said that, like Queen Victoria, they were "not amused", but in reading their literature and watching their theatrical productions, it becomes obvious that they could be just as amused as anyone else. The need for long exposure times makes them look so serious in their photographs that we tend to forget that they were as alive and vital in their time as we are today.
Exposure times and emulsion speed slowly improved over the years. In 1880 a new form of negative became available, the dry plate. Dry plates, still glass, but already coated, were available by the box, just as film is today. In fact, the black-and-white emulsion is very similar; only the base on which it was laid changed.
Photographic images are so widely used now, it is hard to imagine a world without them. But none of the vast amounts of visual information we enjoy today would exist if it had not been for the pioneering photographers and their slow, cumbersome art.