History of Photography
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The albumen print was invented in 1850 by Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard, and was the first commercially exploitable method of producing a photographic print on a paper base from a negative. It used the albumen found in egg whites to bind the photographic chemicals to the paper and became the dominant form of photographic positives from 1855 to the turn of the century, with a peak in the 1860-90 period. During the mid-1800s, the carte de visite became one of the more popular uses of the albumen method.
Some examples of early albumen prints from our collection.
The processes involved in making an Albumen print
Because the image emerges as a direct result of exposure to light, without the aid of a developing solution, an albumen print may be said to be a printed rather than a developed photograph.
The table salt (sodium chloride) in the albumen emulsion forms silver chloride when in contact with silver nitrate. Silver chloride is unstable when exposed to light, which makes it decompose into silver and chlorine. The silver is oxidized into silver oxide during the development process and the remaining silver chloride is washed out during fixing. The black parts of the image are formed by silver oxide.
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