The beginnings of photography in Jersey
William Collie's 1847 photograph of a market woman. A plain toned salted paper print from a Calotype negative, in the possession of the Royal Photographic Society
Since the publication of Jersey Through the Lens in 1975, several books of 19th century Jersey photographs have been produced but surprisingly little has been written about the photographers behind the lens. In most cases the photographs themselves have been presented as images rather than objects and were mainly selected to show aspects of life which are typical of Jersey, such as black butter making and vraicing.
Photographs have been chosen for the information they contain about their subjects rather than as artefacts of photographic history. Yet the individual histories of the photographers, the qualities of the actual photographs, as well as the social conditions in which they were created, are significant in revealing how in photography, as in so many aspects of Island history, Jersey profited from the peculiarities of its legal relationship with Great Britain, as well as its close cultural links with France. This article attempts to provide a narrative of the earliest photographers known to have operated in Jersey, to describe some of the relevant photographic material surviving in the collection of the Société Jersiaise, and to set the details of the early history of local photography in the context of general developments elsewhere.
The demonstration of 1840
Photography was first demonstrated in Jersey in May 1840, only nine months after the details of the invention had been first revealed in Paris. This event must be seen Iin the context of a series of early demonstrations of the Daguerreotype, which were taking place in England and France at this time, as well as the broader issue of patent rights which dominated early photography. Les Chroniques de Jersey and Le Constitutional both carried an advertisement for the great event:
- An Exhibition will take place on Saturday May 9, at one o'clock, precisely, at No 3 Bond Street, when the whole process of this invention will be developed, from the preparation of the silvered plate to the production of the picture thereon by the action of the rays of light only, and afterwards making it visible by submitting the plate to the fumes of mercury. A view of the Old Church will be taken. – Admittance: One shilling British.
The notice does not reveal the identity of the demonstrator. 3 Bond Street was at that time, and for many years after, the residential and business address of Philip Le Cras, hairdresser. But the venue may have been chosen only because it was convenient in offering a view towards an appropriate architectural subject, the process being, as yet, too slow to allow portraits of living subjects. The demonstrator may have been an Island resident who had learned the technique in the time since the process, which was published as Daguerre's manual, had been available in English as well as French, since September 1839.
However, it is also possible that the demonstrator was a visitor to the lsland, and the fact that the advertisement was written in English, despite the fact that the newspapers in question were French language papers, may suggest that the demonstrator came from England rather than France.
Similar demonstrations had been staged in London by M de Ste Croix, who had travelled from Paris via Rouen, during September 1839, and afterwards in Birmingham and possibly Liverpool. These demonstrations also focused on architectural views, one of the first producing 'a view of Regent Street, another of St Martin's Church’. In Dover Dr J P Simon continued to show the technique until November 1840.
De Ste Croix had already disappeared from history at this point and it has been suggested that, as the first demonstrations occurred on 13 September, the Catholic Fete de la Ste Croix, he had 'adopted a pseudonym, perhaps anticipating the litigation over patent rights which duly occurred'. And, in fact, the English demonstrations were subsequently stopped as a result of the threat of legal action by Miles Berry, the patentee of the Daguerreotype process in England.
Early photographic patents
The inventor of the process, Louis Daguerre had, by August 1839, received a pension from the French Government so that his discovery might be 'free to the world’. But he had by then already instructed Berry, a London patent agent, to apply for British Royal Letters Patent.
By these Berry became sole patentee of the Daguerreotype process in 'England, Wales and the town of Berwick upon Tweed, and in all Her Majesty’s Colonies and Plantations abroad’.
Patents for the Calotype process taken out by William Henry Fox Talbot in February 1841 were similarly expressed and show that the patent applied 'within England, Wales and the Town of Berwick upon Tweed'.
This was the usual wording of English patent specifications before 1852. Only by paying additional fees could protection be extended beyond these areas to the Channel Islands and those colonies which had the necessary legislation. It was only after the 1852 Act, which unified the patent systems of England, Ireland and Scotland, that a single patent protection was automatically extended to the whole of the British Isles, including the Channel Isles and the Isle of Man.
In the case of the early British patents in photography, the fees required to cover the Channel Islands were not paid. Consequently, the first photographers in the Island, including the demonstrator of May 1840, operated without the risk of the legal action faced by de Ste Croix, Simon and others. This happy circumstance was to frame the development of photography in Jersey during its first ten years.
The market for photography
Freedom from patent restrictions created an opportunity for early practitioners of photography in the Island. But it was the relatively prosperous economy and associated demographics which allowed the potential to be realised.
The cost of obtaining a professional Daguerreotype license was high, £1,220 in the case of one photographer who was to become significant in the Jersey context. One study of the diffusion of photography in Britain in the 1840s, by Michael Pritchard, has shown that, as a consequence of this high set-up cost, a population threshold of about 30,000 was needed to sustain a local market sufficient to support professional photography.
Although the population of the Island was rising rapidly during this period, from 28,600 in 1821, to 36,582 in 1831, to 47,544 in 1841, at the time of the announcement of photography the town of St Helier was some way short of the 30,000 threshold. In 1840 the town was described as having 'upwards of 1,000 houses; and has a population upwards of 20,000 souls'.
But because photographers did not have to pay for a licence, the cost of operating would have been lower, and so the level of population needed to support commercial photography must also have been lower.
There were at least two other characteristics of the population that may have been significant in the market for photography. The first was the high number of English residents. In 1840 it was said that there were 5,000 English residents of the town. An 1843 Almanac informed 'the Stranger in Jersey' that 'to the north and west he will find a rapidly risen new town, in which reside many of the most respectable English and Native families of the Island' .
Such immigration was a significant element in the growth of the town, which was to achieve a population of nearly 30,000 by 1851. By then the English presence was over 7,000, more than a fifth of whom were professionals, businessmen or of independent means. These independent English immigrants, and the 'respectable' community amongst whom they lived, were precisely the people who were to find in photography a fashionable and affordable new means of recording their social achievements, their properties and their families as well as themselves.
The second feature was the development of tourism as an aspect of the local economy. Pritchard's study shows that the only exceptions to the 30,000 population threshold were cities like Oxford, Cambridge (both 24,000) and Southampton (28,000) which had large visiting and changing populations, providing a continuous stream of trade.
This factor was probably also relevant in Jersey, Alreadv by 1840 a local guidebook was able to refer to 'the migratory summer population which glances at Jersey on the way to France, or in a short excursion from England'.
What Balleine described as 'an enormous English invasion', in the form of both residents and tourists, combined with freedom from the patent restrictions that elsewhere dogged the earlv photographers, formed the background against which the growth of photography in Jersey can be described.
An early amateur
Although the demonstration of Mav 1840 provides the first documentary reference to photography in the Island, there were probably other photographers active in Jersey during 1840 and 1841 who have escaped notice simply because they did not advertise public or commercial services. Writing in I867, Jersey-based photographic pioneer Thomas Sutton recalled first visiting Jersey in the summer of 1841 when he was 22 years of age, and meeting ‘a youth of my own age, who had Daguerreotype apparatus, and was amusing himself with taking views over the town and harbour of St Helier’s, a description which seems to suggest an amateur, rather than a commercial photographer.
Mikulowski and Roemhild
The first record of photographic portraiture being offered commercially in the Island is in 1842. This was the same year that studios appeared in Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester, cities with populations of 152,000, 182,OOO and 235,000 respectively in the 1841 census.
On 3 August, Monsieur Mikulowski, a former Professor of the Royal College of Caen, advertised a variety of services including German, Italian and calligraphy lessons as well as, mentioned almost incidentally, Daguerreotype portraiture, "d'une ressemblance parfaite, en une et deux minutes de pose", (a perfect likeness in one or two minutes of posing). The Mikulowski studio was situated at 4 Seaton Place, the home of a Mr Le Gallais.
Mikulowski later described himself as l'honnete exile que Ie poids d'une immense infortune oblige au travail, (an honest exile who is obliged to work due to the weight of immense misfortune). Mikulowski is absent from the 1841 census, but the 1851 census shows him to be Polish and his wife and two of his three children to have been born in Paris, a great centre for Polish emigres following the 1830 revolution. The second child was born in 1842 in France, which could be taken to suggest that they were new arrivals in the Island in August of that year. He may, therefore, have been practising photography in Caen, and it would certainly be interesting if any evidence of this activity came to light in Normandy.
George Mikulowski's appearance in Jersey was clearly motivated by factors beyond photography alone and the family remained resident in the Island for many years. But as one photographer in the 1890s recalled of the beginnings of photography in England and France 'for many years most of the early daguerreotypists were birds of passage frequently on the wing'. One such ephemeral presence was Monsieur Roemhild, an itinerant photographer who, like Mikulowski, appeared in Jersey in August 1842, when a local paper declared that le monde n’a jamais vus d’interventions plus étonnantes, plus magnifiques que celle de l’instrument qu’un étranger vient d’apporter dans notre ile. (The world has never seen a more surprising, more magnificent invention than the instrument which a foreigner has just brought to our island.)
Roemhild claimed to have learnt his craft from Louis Daguerre, no less. Even if this statement was true it could have meant only that Roemhild had attended one of the public demonstrations of the process made by Daguerre as early as September l839. In his introductory advertisement he described the new invention as un vol fait au ciel, (a theft from the heavens).
For many Islanders this may have been their first introduction to the new art. Inutile de dire que la reproduction est fidele, puisque c'est l’etre, l'objet lui-meme qui se peint sur la plaque metallique, comme votre figure se peint sur Ie miroir ou vous regardez, avec la seule difference qu’ici l'empreinte cesse avec votre presence, tandis que le elle est inalterable, (It is unnecessary to state that the reproduction is true, as it is the being, the object itself which is painted on the metallic plate, as your face is painted in the mirror when you are looking at yourself, with the sole difference that in this case the impression ends with your presence, whilst in the other it is permanent.)
Quarter plate portraits were offered at 12 shillings. This was much cheaper than prices in London, where, in July 1841, Beard and Johnson's Polytechnic studio charged up to £1 13s 6d.
Roemhild's prices can be compared to examples of English firms operating without proper arrangements with Beard including E J Edwards in London who, in August 1842, charged 15 shillings, and Bake and Chapple in Truro who charged 10 shillings in August 1843.
In September, Roemhild was planning his departure, Le public est invité de se hater, tandis que la saison est encore favorable, (The public are invited to make haste whilst the season is still favourable). But he must have found a market for his services and appears to have stayed in the Island until the middle of December. By January 1843 he had formed an association with Mikulowski and they were planning to move their workshop from Laura Cottage, St Saviour's Road, where Roemhild had established himself the previous summer, to new premises in 22 Don Street.
There may have been other photographers working in Jersey at this time, or at least visitors bringing Daguerreotypes to the Island, as the partnership was keen to disassociate itself from les mauvaises épreuves qui circulent dans l’Ile , (the bad prints which are circulating around the Island). The photographers state that for the avoidance of confusion all future portraits would bear their name. No such portraits have come to light.
By April 1843, however, the partnership seems to have been in trouble. Mikulowski had moved out of the workshop and residence at 22 Don Street to 2 Vauxhall. In an advert that ran from April until September (he must have felt strongly about it) Mikulowski attacked his former colleague and advised potential clients that il n'est plus associé avec M. Roemhild, et n'a meme aucune relation avec lui (he is no longer associated with M. Roemhild, with whom he has no further dealings).
The details of their disagreement are not dear, but an aspect of argument seems to have been a difference of understanding of the patents situation. Mikulowski alleges that Roemhild semble d’oublier qu’a Jersey, comme partout, personne n’ignore que l’auteur du Daguerrotype a livré le secret de sa découverte au public, en se contentant d’une perusion du gouvernment Francais (seems to have forgotten that in Jersey, as anywhere else, everyone is aware that the inventor of the Daguerrotype has handed over the secret of his discovery to the public, contenting himself with a pension from the French government”.
Perhaps Roemhild had tried to prevent others from practising, or hadn't shared aspects of his knowledge, or had interfered in Mikulowski's independent operations in some way.
No more is heard of Roemhild, but Mikulowski is still active as a 'Daguerreotype Portrait Painter' at Vauxhall in 1845 and at Georgetown in 1847. Thereafter he seems to have given up Daguerreotypy, He became the proprietor of the Cafe de l'Europe in Mulcaster Street and was involved in the Proscrit politics of the day, reportedly making a clandestine visit to the French coast in 1852 to arrange an attack by 200-300 people landing near St Malo.
Mikulowski, of course, was wrong to suggest that the use of the Daguerreotype 'anywhere else' was free to the public. The patent was being fiercely protected in England. The difficulties caused by the operation of those restrictions explain the presence of the next photographer to be recorded in Jersry, Alfred Barber of Nottingham.
In June 1840 Miles Berry had reassigned the Daguerreotype licence to Richard Beard, a coal merchant and patent speculator. Beard's agreement with Berry, and a separate agreement with Daguerre, ensured that any public or private use of the invention within the specified area could only be legally undertaken with a license from him. In March 1841 he opened Europe's first public photographic portrait studio at the Royal Polytechnic Institution. The studio was a great success and Beard offered licences for studios in the provinces.
Pauline Heathcote, in her history of early Nottingham photographers, has described how Alfred Barber operated as a 'Beard Patentee' in that town. Barber made a £450 down-payment on the £1,220 license fee required, but the anticipated business failed to materialise and he could make only one more payment of £50 under the terms of the contract. On 28 January 1843 Beard successfully applied for an injunction prohibiting Barber from taking portraits in Nottingham. Heathcote points out that 'this incident serves to highlight the fact that the inauguration of professional photography in Britain occurred at a time when the country was experiencing a period of severe economic recession'.
In Jersey, however, the recession had been reversed by the growing population, chiefly the result of English immigration. And although Beard had extended the patents to both Scotland and Ireland, he had not done so for the Channel Islands, which, under these combined circumstances, must have seemed to present a golden opponunity for Barber. In April 1843, three months after Beard's injunction against him, he advertised in the Guernsey Star. In September Barber announced his arrival in Jersey, and, rather disingenuously, his intention to operate a process 'precisely the same as Mr Beard's ... he having purchased the right of using the patent'.
Barber set up an 'Operating Room on the roof of Lozy's Hotel de Paris on the Pier', the present day Royal Yacht Hotel. Most early studios were such glass houses, built on rooftops in order to maximise daylight, sometimes with blue filters to reduce glare. The design of Barber's camera would probably have followed one of Beard's patents for the use of Alexander Wolcott's device, in which a concave mirror was used in place of a lens. The mirror, which collected more light than the lenses available at the time, shortened the exposure time to around three to five minutes from 20 and so was vital to the commercial possibilities of portrait photography. It also had the effect of producing images that were not laterally reversed as was the case with a lens. This explains the statement in the advertisement that:
- ”The peculiar feature in Mr Barber's process is one of paramount importance in a portrait, they [the images] are not reversed, which is the case by all other methods, thereby giving a likeness of extraordinary fidelity surpassing the most exquisite work of human hand”.
The advertisement points out that the erection of the glass operating room was at 'a considerable expense', but presumably not as expensive as paying license fees to Richard Beard. This story highlights the significance of patent restrictions as a motivating factor for early photographers in Jersey. It also places Barber in the context of other businessmen coming to Jersey in the 1840s who were characterised by the 1842 Royal Channel Islands Almanack as 'the honest, but unfortunate, dabbler in schemes and speculations, the broken tradesman, [who] may [in Jersey] ensconce themselves from ... the unavailing persecution of indulgent creditors' .
There is no more evidence of Barber's operation in Jersey but he moved on to other photographic ventures. He advertised a partnership with John Goddard, an early partner of Jersey photographer Henry Mullins, who had worked for Beard to improve the chemistry of the Daguerreotype process, in Winchester in 1846 and Southampton in 1847.
No other visiting photographers have yet been discovered in the two years following Barber. It is uncertain who was the first Island resident to take up commercial photography, but one candidate is a M Le Feuvre who, in September 1846, placed an advertisement which announced that he had 'returned from Paris' and offered portraits in Daguerreotype' a phrase suggesting that he might have been operating in Jersey previously, perhaps as an early itinerant, if not as a resident. It is tempting to believe that this could have been C Le Feuvre, the bookseller in Beresford Street, who was later associated with William Collie and Thomas Sutton, but there is nothing more to confirm this. There are three households but no Le Feuvres at 7 New Street in the 1851 census.
It is, however, interesting to note that Le Feuvre, like Roemhild, offered lessons to amateurs, one reason to assume a growing interest in amateur photographic activity in Jersey at this time that has otherwise not left an identifiable mark on the record.
The portrait of John Folley
Probably the earliest photographic, rather than documentary, evidence of photography in Jersey is a print depicting a man standing beside a basket of fruit and flowers. This picture was given to the Société Jersiaise in 1979, and the donor believed that it depicted her great grandfather, John Folley, who had presented the basket as a gift to Queen Victoria during her visit of September 1846. This event was recorded in the Jersey Times:
- ”On the arrival of the Royal Yacht in the roads, J Poingdestre Esq, of Grainville House, in the company of his very clever gardener, Mr Folley, went on board and had the honour of presenting to Her Majesty a basket of fine fruit from his noble garden. The basket contained pineapples, figs, melons, and grapes.”
Just visible in the photograph, behind the subject's legs, are the legs of a support stand, positioned to aid steadiness of posture during long exposures, a characteristic of the portrait photography of the mid to late 1840s and early 1850s. The print itself is certainly early, but not as early as 1846. Photographic archivist Gareth Syvret has been able to confirm the technical details recently at The Centre for Photographic Conservation. It is an albumen print, hand coated by flotation and plain toned, a process indicative of a print made after 1851, when albumen came into general use, and before 1855, after which most prints were toned with gold chloride.
The detail is so fine that the print appears as if it could have been produced directly from a waxed paper negative of high quality. Waxing negatives in preparation for printing, first described by Fox Talbot in the early 1840s, enhances translucency of the paper and therefore the sharpness of the image.
An alternative reading of the image is that the print was made from a secondary copy negative taken from an earlier salt print, itself made from the original waxed Calotype negative. This would have almost certainly been done using the wet collodion on glass process introduced in 1851. This is more likely, although early colloids were unstable and inconsistent, often resulting in cracks and flaws in emulsions which are not present here.
It is therefore difficult to be certain of the exact date of this image, and it could be later than the subject suggests. The possibility remains, however, that it somehow derives from a photographer active in Jersey in 1846, either an otherwise currently unrecorded itinerant professional or a resident amateur.
Professional photography at this time was dominated by Daguerreotype. The earliest dated example of this process in the Société collection is 1850 (although there are undated examples which could be earlier) and so it is interesting that the earliest Jersey photographic works we can date with any confidence are Calotypes, the English paper negative/positive process patented by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1841.
These were made by William Collie, a native of Aberdeenshire who was already resident in Jersey at the time of the 1841 Census.
Collie appears in the trade almanacs from 1843 as a professor of drawing and portrait painter. There is an 1883 oil portrait of Philip Amy inscribed 'painted by Mr Collie' in the Société collection. He left various paintings 'to the Art Gallery about to be formed in Aberdeen' on his death. although there is now no evidence of these. Examples of his early photographic work, however, survive in two remarkable albums, one in the possession of the Royal Photographic Society in Bath and the other in the collection of the Société Jersiaise.
In a letter to The Photographic Journal in 1860 Collie wrote of the admiration his work received from professional photographers, amateurs and artists ‘when first done, many of them as far back as 1847’. This gives a terminus post quem for his photography which rules him out as a candidate for the maker of the Folley portrait, if that image really does date from 1846.
This letter further confirms the significance of the patent issue to early photography in Jersey. 'Seeing that they (the photographs) were so much admired'. he wrote. 'I would have been glad to turn them to some account, but the patentee, Mr Talbot, interfered with the sale of them in England; I had therefore to content myself with a little fame and less fortune’.
It is not clear what year Collie was referring to when he described this interference. Nor is it clear what form the interference took. Through his evident familiarity with the photographic world of the time he would have been aware of Talbot’s actions against those who infringed the patent and so it is possible that he did ot actually receive a warning directly from Talbot or his lawyers. Certainly a current project to research Talbot’s correspondence has not yet revealed such direct interfercnce.
It is true that Collie has received little recognition in appraisals of early photography, although Elizabeth Heyart's 1975 book, The Glasshouse Years published and discussed a number of these interesting photographs, and two pictures were shown in the 1989 exhibition Photography Until Now at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Album of Calotypes
Heyart refers to an album of Calotypes by Collie 'discovered in the basement of the Royal Photographic Society in London'. This album is listed as a gift to the Society in the Photographic Journal of March 1937 as 'A volume of Calotypes, circa 1847, by William Collie, a portrait painter and photographer, from his great grand-niece Mrs A Marret, per Mr Emile F Greiton (sic), for the permanent collection of the Royal Photographic Society, London. Emile Guiton, honorary curator of the Société Jersiaise, was a keen photographer who must have recognised the national, as well as local, significance of this collection of photographs.
The earliest dated images are portraits made in 1847, the latest is of the eclipse of 16 July 1860. A number are signed and dated by Collie writing directly on to the paper negative, including an 1847 series of portraits of market women. In some cases, dates and identifications of subjects are given on the album pages. The vast majority of these are all written in one hand, the same hand which, under an image of a young girl, has written '1848. Myself'. This is presumed to be a photograph of the donor of the album, Mrs Alice Collie-Marett. For some photographs William Collie has written technical information onto the album pages; 'copied in 1860, toned with gold', for example.
Of the 165 pictures in the album, all but seven are of living subjects. A number are self portraits, including one labelled 'W Collie 1852'. Some depict interesting personalities of the time including Dr Wolfe, explorer in Central Asia, who visited Jersey in 1852, and Dr Hooper, author of A paper on the History and Statistics of Asiatic Cholera in Jersey, written following the epidemic of 1832. But perhaps the best known image is of Elie Jean Filleul. This was reproduced in the Illustrated London News in 1851 with the caption "The Jersey Patriarch", died December 3, 1851, aged 102 - from a Calotype'. This image was also published some years ago in the Sunday Times Magazine. Filleul was recorded as 100 in the 1851 census and 85 in the 1841 census, so may not have been quite that old. But even if you take the lower age, the image is still remarkable in showing a human being born in 1756, the same year as Mozart, and who was 25 at the time of the Battle of Jersey.
This image is also interesting in illustrating how some of Collie's image making seems to be informed by familiarity with the work of significant early photographers in England and Scotland. The picture of Filleul closely recalls 'Dr Thomas Chalmers and his Grandson', an 1845 image by Hill and Adamson. Two images of chess players, in one case Collie and his wife, echo 'The Chess Players' taken by Talbot in 1842, one of the earliest Calotypes with figures. Collie himself, however, felt that he was breaking ground with 'the novelty of the application of the Calotype process to living subjects' .
Calotypes with figures were indeed unusual in commercial applications in the I840s became of the time required for the exposure. This explains some of the annotations in the album. One of the pictures is marked simply '30 seconds', another 'The Negative of this Picture was taken in Twenty Seconds'. Collie was at pains to draw attention to this image in his 1860 letter. 'One (a portrait of a young lady smelling flowers) was done in twenty seconds, which was the shortest time I could arrive at then; the usual time, as you are aware, being from two to three minutes exposure in the camera’.
Market women series
Some of the earliest photographs were studies of market women. The women were noted as a picturesque presence by an 1843 guidebook, which recommended a visit to the town market where the visitor might be 'not a little amused with the fantastic headdresses of the Norman women'. It seems Collie started working with these subjects early in 1847 because they were the images he sent to the editor of the Art Union journal where they were given an enthusiastic notice in the number for June of that year:
- 'Mr W Collie, of Belmont House, Jersey, an artist of repute, has forwarded to us some c g s of 'Calotypes' taken from life. They are copies chiefly of the market women of the island, whose expressions, countenances and picturesque costumes, are well suited for the purpose. We have seen nothing at all comparable to them, except those of Mr D O Hill of Edinburgh; in both cases we have proofs how greatly this interesting art may be improved in the hands of artists. The Calotypes of Mr Collie are wonderfully accurate; each may indeed be a model for a painter; proving how emphatically Art may be assisted by Nature. Some of these before us are likenesses; and we may be justified in describing them as even in this respect highly satisfactory; for a degree of refinement has been obtained of which the art has seemed incapable'.
The market women series does indeed seem to echo, in some respects, Hill and Adamson's 1845 Calotypes of Newhaven fishermen and fishwives, which were ground breaking in taking photography out of the studio and representing the behaviour of the subjects in real life, But, by comparison, Collie's studio images seem more like artistic studies focused mainly on the picturesque, or as Heyart puts it 'memorable pictures rather than authentic documents'. This is even more apparent in the series of pictures, also created in 1847, modelled by Maggie Thompson. In some of these she appears as a working girl in plain clothes, in one example posed with a wooden wash bucket and a rustic fence. But others are more formal portraits, fashionably dressed and clutching a drawing or music portfolio.
More of Collie's photographs survive in the collection of the Société, interleaved in a manuscript chronology compiled in the 1860s by Advocate H Simon, Ecrivain pres de la Cour Royal, deputy Viscount and Deputy for St Helier. This document passed through several hands before Ralph Mollet donated it to the Société on 7 May 1940. It comprises a chronology of Jersey and world events of significance from 1600. Simon's interest in photography is evident from his choice of events of significance, which include:
- Photography by d'Aguerre - (-otypes)
- Inventions with the Camera Lucida
- or Pictures by the Sun (Talbotypes)
- 'The Imagery of the Camera Image so beautiful, so faithful, so exquisite is fixed! -
- the realisation of a Dream'.
More importantly the album contains 44 photographs; 17 salted paper prints and 27 albumen prints. At least six photographs are by Collie being prints from the same series as the photographs in the Royal Photographic Society album, or from different negatives taken at the same sitting of a subject.
One such example is a photograph of C Le Feuvre, described in the chronology text as 'publisher of Sutton's Photographic Notes and Photographic Quarterley Review'. All except one of the photographs which can be identified as by Collie arc prints from Calotype (paper) negatives. One, of Dr Fixort, is from a wet collodion negative indicating the adoption of that process by the photographer at some point in the 1850s. There is evidence that at least 11 artefacts/prints have been removed at some point.
The majority of the salted paper prints, including those known to be by Collie, seem to date from the early 1850s, which is confirmed by the paper qualities and in one case by the presence of a watermark in the paper, J WHATMA ... 1851. This is J Whatman of Turkey Mill. The Centre for Photographic Conservation found this 'surprising, because in terms of their preparation/coating, processing and stability they are quite crude compared to their more sophisticated counterparts from this period'. The albumen prints within the album are also quite crude in coating, preparation and processing, suggesting the producer, or producers, were still developing their art.
Photographs by Collie were included in the Channel Island section of the Great Exhibition of 1851, at which 700 photographs from six countries were shown. He exhibited a frame of 20 Calotypes amongst an eclectic collection of Jersey-made items including John Chevalier's model of a swinging beacon and P Le Feuvre's Orrery, objects which are now both in the collection of the Société.
The entry in the Official Description and Exhibition Catalogue was complimentary. The authors described the Calotype pictures from Life French and Jersey Market-Women and reported that 'the peculiarity of the atmosphere of these islands, combined with the abundance of blue light reflected from the sea, was found by the writer to communicate an almost instantaneous impression to paper or plates'.
Perhaps it was the exhibition that drew Talbot's attention to Collie's unlicensed use of the Calotype. Certainly the terms of the patent forbade importation of works produced abroad by processes similar to his own. It is significant that, at this time of debate around the patent, the catalogue entry for Collie’s collection of photographs is prefaced by a remarke on 'the use of this term Calotype - originally a derivative from Greek. It is now generally superseded by that of Talbotype, implying the name of the inventor of the art of photography on paper'.
Reports of the Juries
The authors of the Reports of the Juries were much less generous, noting that Collie's photographs 'are not all equally good; many of them are blotty and wanting in depth', which is interesting in the light of the recent conservation report mentioned above. In the 1860 letter Collie complained that the Jury remarks were made 'without the slightest reference to the novelty of the application of the Calotype process to living subjects.’
Collie's figure studies of 'living subjects', different in ambition to commissioned portraits, are examples of fine art photography unique in the local context at this period. Heyart surmised that Collie began to use photography to record subject matter for painted portraits but that, from an observation of the whole body of work, 'it becomes clear by his repeated attempts at portraying certain individuals or groups of people, by changes in his interpretation of character and atmosphere, that Collie began to regard Calotype portrait as an end in itself.
Although clearly derivative in some ways, Collie brought an artistic ambition to his work in a way that marks it out from that of other local photographers of the mid-19th century, with the obvious exception of the output of the Hugo's Marine Workshop. He went on to have a long career in photography in Jersey which falls outside the scope of this article, but the story of Collie's early photography confirms how significant it was in our photographic history that the Channel Islands were free from Talbot's widely resented attempt to claim 'a complete monopoly of sunshine'.
One photograph in the Simon album, unfortunately a sodium chloride stabilised print and therefore the least stable with an 85 per cent image loss, is titled Bingham - photographer of Jersey Views. Bingham was another early photographer whose presence In Jersey may have been connected to the patent issue.
Robert Bingham was a chemist, working as an aide to Faraday and as a lecturer at the London Institute, Finsbury. He was interested in photography from its inception and published the manual Photogenic Manipulation in 1848, The same year he unsuccessfully applied for a professional Calotype licence from Talbot. Two years later they were still unable to agree terms. The 1850 edition of his book notes Reverend J B Reade's early use of Gallic acid as a developer, the key point of significance in breaking Talbot's patent. So as Nancy Keeler observed 'it seems safe to assume that Bingham had done. some serious thinking about the validity of Talbot's patent'
Robert Bingham, like Collie, exhibited Calotypes at the Great Exhibition. They were described in the Reports of the Juries as ‘landscapes chiefly … such as cottages and trees. They are very cleanly executed.’
They received great praise in the Illustrated London News review, Light and its Applications, and the Jersey Times reporting this article, was quick to point out that ‘Mr Bingham’s Calotypes are many of them reflections of scenes and places in Jersey, where he has been residing for a year, for the purpose of his art’.
The 1851 Census, taken in March, finds ,the 26-year-old Bingham living at Havre des Pas. If Bingham was indeed here specifically for the purpose of his art, it is likely that the freedom from patent problems would have played a part in his motivation.
Dispute with Talbot
As an aside it is worth mentioning how Bingham's dispute with Talbot developed. Keeler describes how the Royal Commissioners for the Exhibition subsequently awarded Bingham a contract for producing photographic illustrations for 140 presentation versions of the Reports of the Juries. At over 20,000 photographs, this was the biggest single commission of its type to date. The commissioners had rescinded a previous contract with Talbot to allow Richard Henneman, a Talbot licensee, to undertake this work. Bingham planned to produce the prints in France in flagrant disregard of the patent restrictions.
If the portrait can be taken to suggest that Collie and Bingham met, which seems very likely, it may be that it was from Bingham that Collie learned of potential problems with the importation into England for the purposes of sale, of Calotypes produced outside the country. But perhaps Bingham's most significant photographic legacy, as far as Jersey is concerned, was his importance to the work of Thomas Sutton, who was to establish a photographic printing business in Jersey in the 1850s. Sutton recalled how his early efforts were guided by 'Mr Bingham's very clever little book on photographic manipulation'. And, around the time of the exhibition, Sutton received instruction in Calotype from a Naval instructor, resident in St Helier, called Laverty, who had in turn 'received instruction in the art from its greatest master at that time, Mr Bingham'.
Mullins and Millward
By the time of Bingham's visit, Henry Mullins had already established, in the Royal Square, his Photographic Portrait Rooms. The operation of the studio was to span three decades and produce at least 20,000 images, including two albums of Calotypes, containing about 10,000 portraits dating from 1850 to the early 1870s, now in the Société collection. It is not possible to state with certainty that his arrival in Jersey was motivated only by the advantages created by the absence of patent restrictions, but his early advertisements indicate at least an awareness of the issue.
Raymond Turley, in his study of Isle of Wight photographers, considers it likely that it was this Henry Mullins who was briefly associated with John Goddard in Ryde in 1844. On 3 August an advert appeared in the Hampshire Advertiser:
Protected by Letters Patent
THE COLOURED DAGUERREOTYPE OR
Messrs GODDARD and MULLlNS, from the Royal Polytechnic Institution,are taking daily at their Rooms, No. 43 Pier-street, Ryde, these beautiful and unerring Portraits
This was the John Goddard, a lecturer in optics at the Adelaide Gallery, to whom Richard Beard had turned for technical assistance. Goddard improved the chemistry of the Daguerreotype process to a point where exposure times could be reduced to a period viable for commercial portraiture. So the Isle of Wight partnership shows that Mullins was probably very dose to the origins of photography in Britain.
Mullins arrived in Jersey in the summer of 1848 with a partner named Millward. An advertisement was placed announcing the opening of an establishment for taking 'unerring and inimitable likenesses' at Tozer's Saloon in the Royal Square. The advertisement is headed simply 'From the Royal Polytechnic Institution', and there is no mention of the Letters Patent which featured in their advertisement for the Ryde operation. Furthermore, the new studio was able to offer photographs 'the charge for which is reduced to one half of that in London, viz: lOs 6d for the portrait complete' , and this was probably at least in part an effect of the absence of patent restrictions. In 1845 Beard's London price list showed plain bust portraits a guinea, two guineas coloured.
In September the Jersey Times reported that the business 'continues its career of well-deserved popularity and success' and regretted that 'the intended period of stay of Messrs Millward and Mullins in the Island, for the present season, is approaching its termination' , confirming the partnership's itinerant status. However, Mullins may have met his Jersey-born wife, Ann Piton, that summer and they married in St Brelade on 21 October.
The studio in the Royal Square remained open through the winter of 1848/9, and the proprietors advertised the suitability of photographs for Christmas presents from late November. In the spring of 1849 it was announced that the studio had closed 'for the purpose of effecting certain new arrangements with the apparatus ' and that when it reopened it would be under the sole proprietorship and direction of Mullins. There is no further record of Millward in Jersey, and he presumably returned to England.
Mullins earliest adverts refer repeatedly to 'improved coloured photographic portraits'. Monochrome early Daguerreotypes were thought lifeless and, as early as 1842, Heard patented three methods for hand colouring techniques. Two techniques involved application of dry pigment to gum painted directly onto the surface of the image, either dusting using a stencil or directly by stippling with a soft brush, the other method being the application of translucent paint to the inside surface of the glass cover.
The three Mullins Daguerreotypes in the Société collection all show use of colouring techniques. Often colouring was carried out by former miniature painters, and perhaps this was the role of Millward. One example is a pair of quarter plate (3½ by 4½ inch) images mounted in the usual red leather case, on the cover of which is embossedd in gold Photographic Portrait Establishment, Mr Mullins, Royal Square, arranged in a device suggesting the royal coat of arms with which he headed his newspaper advertisements.
The two seated men are shown, one holding gloves and a cane, the other a book. Red pigment has been applied to the faces to give a realistic skin tone, gold to the edges of the pages of the book. These Daguerreotypes are delicately coloured in comparison to some examples of this type of work where the image is an but obscured by over-painting.
Portrait of woman
The second Daguerreotype is a sixth plate (2½ by 3½) of a young woman. A necklace and bracelet are picked out in gold. The figure itself is set against a painted backdrop of an ivy covered trellis, an innovation proposed in an 1841 patent by Claudet in order to represent 'objects which, by the various distances of their parts, could not otherwise be correctly introduced in a Daguerreotype on account of the different foci of the several objects.’ A pink card passe-partout is signed in ink 'Mullins 1850'. In a second sixth plate of a young woman, virtually all components of the image are coloured: face, jewellery, book, flowers and tablecloth.
These four images are all cased examples. Some of the other Daguerreotypes in the collection are framed for display on walls or mantelpieces, but there are no examples of the miniature photographs offered by Mullins, 'small enough to be mounted in a brooch or ring', or the 'coloured photographic miniatures etc, in rings, lockets, brooches, frames ... forming the most acceptable and appropriate New Year's Gifts, Birthday, or Christmas Presents and Souvenirs' .
Nor does the collection contain examples of another proposed Mullins innovation in photographic reproduction. In October 1849 he was seeking subscribers for the purpose of having his portrait of the Bailiff, Sir Thomas Le Breton, lithographed for publication.
Mullins was a self-proclaimed innovator, undertaking 'a promise to introduce all improvements in the art. While the advertisements of 1848 refer only to Daguerreotype, from the summer of 1849 he offered lessons in Calotype and Energiatype, promising 'proficiency guaranteed for a fee of five guineas'. Energiatype was an alternative paper process invented by Robert Hunt in 1844 using prorosulphate of iron as a developing agent. There is a Mullins Calotype dated 1850 in the collection of the Société, but it seems that Mullins did not advertise a Calotype portraiture service until 1855. The reference to Calotype instruction at this stage is interesting. Photographers as early as Roemhild in 1842 had given lessons and perhaps the absence in Jersev of licenses, which in England were required for amateur as well as commercial work, boosted the involvement of amateurs as well as professionals in the art.
The favourable climate for photography in Jersey in the 1840s attracted not only photogrpahers from outside the island, but also established professionals in other fields who, like Mikulowski, offered portraiture as part of a portfolio of services. Arzan de Latour was one of a number of people who, during the boom of the 1850s and 1860s, were to offer photography as an addition to their primary services. These included a carver and gilder, a watch-maker and a bookseller.
De Latour was already established as a Professor of Music at Duhamel Plafce in 1845. In July 1849 he placed an advertisement in Les Chroniques offering
M De Latour fait savoir qu’il prend journellement des portraits de toutes grandeurs
(même assez petits pour être montés sur une broche ou sur une bague), au moyen du
Magnifique appareil qu’il vient d’apporter de Paris et par le nouveau procédé qil emploie.La Ressemblance la plus frappante, jointe à l’expression des yeux, etc, est obtenue instantément.
(Colour portraits: M De Latour would like to make it known that he takes portraits of all sizes on a daily basis (even very small ones to be mounted in brooches or rings), by means of a magnificent camera which he has just brought from Paris and the new process which he uses. A most startling resemblance, together with the expression in the eyes etc. is obtained instantly. His samples can be seen at his Establishment at No. :3 Minden Place from where he operates at all times.
In a similar advert in the Jersey Times De Latour, described as Professor of Singing, also offered 'lessons on the pianoforte, guitar, accordion and cornopean’. In the almanacs and censi De Latour continued to present himself as a Composer and Professor of Music, but The Portrait Establishment, opened in 1850 in the premises he occupied at 28 David Place, continued to operate as a photographic studio and was taken over by the English photographer, Frank Swan,in 1867.
The Jersey Times adverts referred to 'his new process (hitherto unknown in the Island)', This could be mere advertising puff, or it could refer to one of the alternative photographic processes, such as the Energiatype, or to Calotype which was still unusual as a commercial portrait medium. De Latour may have been the first in Jersey to take commercial photography outside the studio, explaining that he 'attends families at their residences, either in Town or Country'. An example of this work, a salt print of a farm, has recently been purchased by the Jersey Heritage Trust. It is undated, but the process suggests the 1840s or early 18505. On the reverse is written in ink 'Portrait Estabt, 28 David Place Jersey', De Latour's address from 1830. This is one of the very earliest landscape photographs of Jersey. Chronologically, De Latour is the last of the group of photographers so far identified as working in Jersey in the 1840s.
Relaxation of patent restrictions
There is much to suggest that this first decade of photography in Jersey was framed by the patent issue. The vigorous defence of the patents by both Beard and Talbot created opportunities in Jersey. The demonstration of 1840 can be seen as one of a series of events taking place nationally that were interrupted by the assertion of patent rights. Mikulowski and Roemhild argued over the matter. Barber sought to escape the patent in visiting jersey, Collie complained of Talbot's interference once he took his photography outside the Island. Bingham may have come to Jersey in 1850 to remove himself from a similar dispute. Mullins omits the mention of Letters Patent that had featured in his earlier advertisements with Goddard. De Latour exemplifies the tradesmen who could afford to move gradually into commercial photography free from the negotiations and payments for licences.
The significance of patents, however, was already diminishing by the end of the decade. Patents then ran for 14 years, but neither the Daguerreotype or Calotype patents were to run their full course. Beard went bankrupt in 1849. Talbot bowed to pressure in 1852 and allowed greater use of Calotype, the first step to his decision not to renew the patent in 1854. Both techniques were to be replaced by the unpatented collodion process, invented by Frederick Scott Archer in 1848 and published in 1851. In parenthesis it is interesting to note that Robert Bingham later claimed to have discovered this process.
In 1852 a new single Act governing patents unified the existing legislation and included the Channel Islands. The legal and technical context of photography was changed by these developments.
By then, however, the local pioneers had established a pattern of photographic activity in Jersey that was to evolve and develop in the 1850s. There were to be many more short stay itinerants like Roemhild and Barber, more exiles involved in photography like Mikulowski, more semi-professional artists and amateurs like Collie, more immigrant professionals like Mullins and more established local traders adopting photography. Even without the motivation of freedom from patents, the political, social and physical landscape of the Island continued to make Jersey attractive to photographers. Beginning with Charles Hugo and Thomas Sutton, Jersey was to be the focus of further significant developments in the history of photography in the following period.