Carl V. Hartman and the Costa Rica Collections

Photography in 1903

Today, cameras are widely available for people with different needs and levels of expertise-there are even cameras that can fit in the palm of a hand! At the turn of the century however, cameras were just becoming affordable and easy to use by the general public.

During the earlier stages of photography, pictures were taken on individual glass plates (ranging from 4"x5" to 8"x10" and larger in size) These plates were heavy, fragile, and, until the arrival of the 'dry plate' process, required chemical preparation before exposure and immediate development afterwards. Along with the heavy and cumbersome cameras of the time, photographers would have had to carry with them a darkroom and chemicals for preparing and processing the plates. For photographers, each batch mixed of these flammable chemicals literally threatened to be their last-carelessness resulted in explosions that often destroyed buildings and took lives! The preparation of 'wet plates' was expensive, dangerous, labor-intensive, and had widely inconsistent results-hardly interesting to an amateur.

It was not until the 1870s that a process was invented that allowed photographers to develop 'dry plates' long after they had been exposed. Each photographed plate no longer had to undergo tedious chemical processes before exposure.

The advent of the 'dry plate' technology brought with it a marked increase in the popularity of photography among amateurs. Pre-manufactured glass plates prepared for exposure became available, and roll film appeared within the following ten years. Photography had finally come of age as an "art for everybody!"

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