|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
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!"