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Major C. Russell

Major C. Russell was born in Essex England in 1820. Scant details exist of his formal education or his family except that his surname of Bramfill was changed to satisfy the requirements of an inheritance on his mother's side. His interest in photography commenced in 1856, and four years later, his experimentation with tannin processes began. His photographic research included a collodion dry bath and using alkaline as a developer. His studies also revealed the limitations imposed on alkaline developers because of their bromides. To maximize sensitivity to light, exposures require wet plates. When treated with distilled water prior to exposure, Frederick Scott Archer discovered that sensitiveness was lessened considerably. If allowed to dry, sensitivity is also diminished. Dr. J. M. Taupenot's albumen method achieved decent results, but Major Russell believed they could be improved. He experimented with several chemicals to prohibit the plates from drying, but with little initial success. On January 1, 1861, his preface to Hardwich's Photographic Chemistry described his improved dry collodion process, in which he initially coated the plate with gelatine (a step he later deemed unnecessary), then with bromide-iodized collodion. The plate was sensitized, washed, and treated with a solution of tannin and water. The solution was then drained and the plate was dried.

During the early 1860s, Major Russell is believed to be the first to work with alkaline development, but photographic industry professionals remained skeptical of its results. However, in a July 1864 article published in The British Journal of Photography, Major Russell provided a detailed account of his alkaline development experiments, attributing their successes to using bromide as a restrainer. However, there are others who argue that bromide only succeeded as a restrainer because it was added to the alkaline components. Major Russell maintained bromide could be added to the developer or used to treat the plate, along with ammonia or sodium thiosulfate serving as the alkali component. It is believed Major Russell ceased his experimentation after 1868 because his studies are no longer being chronicled in photographic publications. Having achieved the rank of Colonel late in life, C. Russell died on May 16, 1887. The man himself remains a mysterious figure in the history of photography, but his documented experiments made important contributions to its scientific development.





Ref:
2007 The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography (Burlington, MA: Focal Press/Elsevier), p. 40.

1888 A History of Photography (Bradford, UK: Percy Lund & Co., The Country Press), p. 51.

1894 The Photographic Times, Vol. XXIV (New York: The Photographic Times Publishing Association), pp. 277-279.


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