17. First Field Photographs (1860)

First Field Photographs 1
First Field Photographs 2

In 1860, James Richardson took the earliest known Survey photographs of work in the field. He and his crew were mapping the north shore of the St Lawrence between Mingan, Quebec, and the Strait of Belle Isle.

Richardson used a wet collodion process that produced glass-plate stereographs. The process created beautifully detailed pictures, but the logistics of using photography in the field were challenging.

Added to the difficulties of reaching and traversing remote locations were the sheer bulk of the materials required. The wet collodion process used fragile glass plates, and the images had to be developed within 15 minutes. As a result, a portable darkroom was essential and this required a lightproof tent, bottles of chemicals, and barrels of water – all of which had to be carried into the wilderness by the field crew. The transport of the photographic equipment was one of the most costly items in the fieldwork budget.

Category: Fieldwork

Decade: 1860s

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