Home Interior Design One of the earliest inventors of photography had an ingenious trick to keep his images from developing too much, researchers say

One of the earliest inventors of photography had an ingenious trick to keep his images from developing too much, researchers say

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A photography pioneer may have used urine to create his historic images.

This was one of the revelations that a group of conservation experts from Brazil, Portugal and the United States took home as they re-examined a series of what are believed to be among the oldest surviving photographic artifacts from the Americas, all created by the 19th century. artist, adventurer and inventor Hercule Florence.

A man of Franco-Italian-Monegasque origin living in Brazil, Florence was one of the first to permanently fix images on paper using chemicals. His innovations in this area predated those of Louis Daguerre and Henry Fox Talbot, two scientists widely credited with developing photographic technology, but came after the groundbreaking innovations of Nicéphore Niépce.

Unlike these two scientists, who were internationally acclaimed in their time, Florence remained relatively unknown for her work. Fortunately, his accomplishments are even brighter now.

Working from the HERCULES laboratory at the University of Évora in Portugal, the researchers recently applied a number of analytical techniques to three surviving graphic prints made by Florence: a decorative border for a Masonic diploma and two design patterns designed for pharmacy labels. The three objects are nearly two centuries old.

Photomicrography revealed that the paper Florence used to create the images was similar to that found in her previous experiments. X-ray fluorescence, meanwhile, showed that silver nitrate or silver chloride was used for the diploma design and gold chloride was used for the pharmacy labels. These materials proved crucial in the inventor’s quest to not only capture light, but to permanently record it.

Early studies by Thomas Wedgwood and others probably led Florence to use papers coated with light-sensitive chemicals. Above these he placed pieces of blackened glass with patterns engraved on them.

This process created a positive image, but he still needed a way to prevent the image from continuing to darken when exposed to light. For this solution, he experimented with unconventional materials.

Using a technique called ATR-FTIR spectroscopy, the researchers identified a higher amount of protein in the pharmacy labels, a finding that suggests the presence of urine. In other words, to prevent her images from developing, Florence peed on them.

For conservation experts, the find is testament to the ingenuity of the 19th-century scientist, who worked without the resources of his European contemporaries.

“What Hercule Florence accomplished is really a prehistory of photography”, says Art Kaplan, associate scientist at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles, who co-led the research effort with António Candeias of the HERCULES laboratory. “He was one step ahead, employing certain elements commonly used in the photographic process.”

The analyzed photographs, Kaplan added, “would be the only survivors of this period”.

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