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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Robert Ellis

Active:  Great Britain
 
  

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Robert Ellis
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

 
  
Ellis contributed at least two detailed studies of the properties of the proto-nitrate of iron that were of importance in the early history of photography. He found the process of photographic development to be both uncertain and a hindrance, and closely studied the work of Talbot and of his Irish nemesis, Dr. Thomas Woods. As he wrote in the Athenaeum, Ellis modified Woods’s Catalysotype iron process “to apply the art of photography to some interesting geological examinations.” He doubted that most photographers would want to go to the trouble he did, in taking “a geological ramble over the rocks of the Channel Islands, with a camera under one arm, and a portable dark tent, in which I prepared paper on the spot, under the other.” Ellis stressed that he was “anxious that the paper-photography of England may receive a due illustration in all its varieties at the forthcoming Exhibition, and may present as favourable an evidence of the progress of that art in our country, where it is our boast that perfect photography has had its birth, as doubtless the exquisite Daguerreotypes of our neighbours will of their success in that department of photography in France.” With this tie, it seems probable that he was the same Robert Ellis whose skills were called upon for the “scientific revision and preparation” of the entries in the official Catalogue of the Great Exhibition of 1851. A fellow of the Linnean Society and a member of the Royal Chemical Society, Ellis was also the author of The Chemistry of Creation, a popular work first issued in 1850 and continued through several editions. No surviving examples of his photography are known. 
  
Roger Taylor & Larry J. Schaaf Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007) 
  
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is included here with permission. 
  
Date last updated: 4 Nov 2012. 
  
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