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The mannerism of ambrotypes

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The hegemony of digital images has backfired, generating a renewed interest in analog photography, and in historical photographic processes in particular. Anxious to distance themselves from the daily flood of pixels, photographers are returning to the daguerreotype, salt or wax paper, gum bichromate, and tintype. These techniques are meticulous, time-consuming, and demanding. They remind us that photography used to be a matter of chemistry as much as optics. The Swiss Camera Museum in Vevey has devoted numerous exhibitions to nineteenth-century processes, which often were abandoned as soon as they appeared. Yet one technique was absent from the list: the wet...

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