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Gelatin Silver PrintThe first step toward commercial photography

In 1871 the English physician Richard Leach Maddox changed photography forever by inventing the gelatin dry plate. Photo printing had always been a tricky process, with processes like the daguerreotype and collodion process requiring mercury or ether vapor to create a light-sensitive plate that could receive the image. In his medical practice, Maddox used photomicrography, or photography under a microscope, and through experimentation discovered that the sensitizing chemicals cadmium bromide and silver nitrate should be coated on a glass plate in gelatin and dried. Dry plates could be manufactured and sold wholesale, rather than made by the photographer as needed in their darkroom.

The next decade saw huge leaps forward in the sensitivity and efficiency of the gelatin silver process, and soon the silver process was transferred onto photo paper, making it even more accessible. Unfortunately, Maddox published his experiments as a gift to the world, made no money from his discovery, and died in poverty.

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Wife of American Horse, Dakota Sioux

Gertrude Käsebier, 1900

Amos Two Bulls — Profile

Gertrude Käsebier, 1900


Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, 1917

Victory Arch and Flatiron Bldg


The Kiss

Man Ray, 1922

Ingres's Violin

Man Ray, 1924

The Constructor

El Lissitzky, 1924

Black and White

Man Ray, 1926

What do you want from me?

Claude Cahun, 1928


Aleksandr Rodchenko, 1929


Man Ray, 1930


Aleksandr Rodchenko, 1930

Pioneer with a Bugle

Aleksandr Rodchenko, 1930

Self Portrait with the Lamp

Man Ray, 1934

Migrant Mother

Dorothea Lange, 1936

Refugee Families

Dorothea Lange, 1937

Eighteen Year-Old Mother

Dorothea Lange, 1937

African American and White Soldiers aboard A Ship

Gordon Parks, 1941

American Gothic

Gordon Parks, 1942

Paul Robeson

Gordon Parks, 1942

Negro Women In Her Bedroom

Gordon Parks, 1942

Mrs. Ella Watson

Gordon Parks, 1942

Photographers from the Negro press at Howard University Commencement Exercises

Gordon Parks, 1942

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