Poisonous Photography!


Daguerreotype Portrait of a couple.

Pat here, still deep in Victorian research. I’ve had a character pop up who claims to be a photographer, and I had a bit of panic because the book is set in 1871. How much photography could my Victorian lady do in those early stages of cameras? Kodak hadn’t even come along yet!

Even after digging through research files, I can’t claim to understand the entire process of what early photographers went through to fix pictures onto paper, but photography was a booming business by 1870. Much of the history involved finding the right combination of chemicals in the photographic paper and in the developing process. I was interested in killing off a character with cyanide or mercury because these chemicals were used in early photos, but by 1870, the profession had moved on to less deadly chemicals. But aha! Cyanide continued to be used for architectural blueprints, even if daguerreotypes and their mercury backing were going out of style. That doesn’t help my Victorian lady though.

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