Charles Albert Long , the story of a London photographer

Charles Albert Long  was a  London based photographer during the mid 1850s that much we are certain of. For a brief period of time he was quite prominent in photographic circles and was a staunch supporter of the Calotype he  contributed several articles in the Journal Photographic Notes, he was also the Long of the partnership Messrs. Bland & Long who owned a shop at 153 Fleet St in London. He  wrote a manual in 1854 entitled “Practical Photography on Glass and Paper “ It is this manual that piqued my interest , that and the fact he is a fellow Londoner.  It is well written and  goes a long way to simplifying a complex and uncertain process. As far as I know none of his photographic work has survived .

The name Charles Albert Long came to my attention when I bought a lens from a certain internet auction site. It was originally sold by a gentleman called John Brent Hockins from his premises  at 38 Duke Street Manchester Square London. Or what is now Selfridges. It is a Rapid rectilinear made between 1868 and 1872 which gives an image of wonderful character. It is call the Desideratum. It was my efforts to learn more about Hockins that led me to Long. In the bibliography of “Paper and Light” I noted that Hockins wrote a manual “ Photography on Glass and paper” in London in the same year as Long and all my searches for this particular manual led me to Charles Longs . So much so that I was beginning to suspect that they were the same person !! A more likely explanation is that the Bibliography gives the wrong author.




Born 1828. Date of death unknown.


Long, Charles Albert
Born in St Pancras 1828.
Christened March 11 1829 in St Pancras. Son of Charles Long and Mary Ann at the Old Church St Pancras. The old church is reputed to be Londons oldest . It was renovated during the 1850s.

1841 Somertown St Pancras
Charles Long 35 not born in Middlesex
Mary Long 35 not born in Middlesex
Albert 12 not born in Middlesex
Edwin 9 ditto
Charles 1 ditto.

1851 north side of King St no 1 St Marylebone Middlesex
Charles Long 47 decorator employing 40 men , born Sussex.
Henrietta 25 wife Born Essex
Charles Albert 22 son , student born London
Edwin William , 18 son , artist in painting, born London.

So Possibly Mary and little Charles have died ?

1881: electrician living at 25 Mornington Road, St Pancras.
1885: photographer living at 51 Tottenham Court Road, St Pancras.
1894: photographer living at 36 Geneva Road, Brixton, Lambeth.
1897: photographer living in Brighton.
County court judgement June 23 1885 £11.
Bill of sale to William J Hollingsworth December 4 1894 £40, in Brighton August 23 1897 £30.
Date of death unknown

Company Name
Bland & Co.    1858 - 1863    Or Wm. R. Bland & Co.
Bland & Long    1852 - 1858    
153 Fleet St. London    1852 - 1863    

The partnership between Bland and Charles Albert Long was dissolved in September 1858. And it is in 1858 that Long disappears from the photographic scene reappearing in 1881 as an electrician. Exactly why he did and what he was doing between 1858 and 1881 is a mystery but I may have stumbled upon the why .

William Russell Bland died on 23 September 1863, the premises were then occupied by Negretti & Zambra. Their line of business was very similar to Bland and Longs and their own manual of 1863 was an  exact copy of Longs second manual even the pricing was the same. Negretti and Zambra were quite prominent in the history of photography during this period , being the official photographers at the Crystal Palace in 1854 , as well as sponsoring a photographic exhibition to Egypt in 1856 conducted by Francis Frith. They also had a photographic studio where they produced Carte D Visites. They later abandoned  their photographic interests and concentrated on scientific and meteorological instruments as well as telescopes, binoculars and opera glasses. They were still going until 1999. I have a very early Petzval len made by them and it gives a very pleasing image.

In the1851 Great Exhibition official guide

Charles Albert Long - Inventor 
Railway signal ,worked by the agency of electricity. Intended to obviate the danger of one train overtaking the other.

That would have made him only 23 and may be it was the exhibition of photographs from France and England with exhibits from such masters as Samuel Buckle, David Octavius Hill & Robert Adamson, Henneman & Malone, Frederic Flacheron, Gustave Le Gray and Hippolyte Bayard that stirred his interest in photography. Or more likely he had an interest in the new science of Chemistry which blended nicely with the equally new science of Photography. Unlike modern digital photography you had to have knowledge of a wide range of subjects in order to produce a photograph. Maths , Chemistry, Art , physics , optics and above all endless patience not to say dogged determination . The Calotypist of the 1850s was usually someone who was well off , not necessarily aristocracy but not far off. Some one who had time and money to spare and also someone who was not afraid to experiment in order to simplify and give consistent results.  He must have realised the potential of the new art because at 24 he entered in to a partnership with William Russell Bland. Between them they owned a shop at 153 Fleet Steet in London.

Bland died in 1863 and was probably the senior partner. Did he see Longs potential and youthful energy and enthusiasm not to say knowledge or was Long from a wealthy background. Long was certainly well educated. I can find very little about Bland except that in 1852 he was elected to “The  Society For the Encouragement Of Arts , Manufactures and Commerce the predecessor to the Royal Society of Arts. I think it can be safely said that Bland and Longs enterprise in Fleet St embraced the societies mission to “embolden enterprise , enlarge science, refine art, improve our manufacturers and extend our commerce “.I would guess that Bland had already established a shop there prior to their partnership.

Note the inscription in the cover " By appointment to the queen" indicating their products were sold to to the Queen and therefore guaranteed of quality.

By 1854 Long was confident in his technical expertise , enough to release his first Photographic Manual with a second edition coming in out 1856. As can be seen from the cover above, it covered instructions for all the photographic processes in vogue during the mid 1850s. Longs mandate being a work that contained “ Simple and definite instructions as will enable him to succeed in the particular processes in which he may be engaged” Note the use of the many different “type” faces for the lettering in the Title pages.

Moreover the Manual contained a Catalogue of the Photographic equipment sold at number 153 and as can be seen from the preface much of the equipment was made on the premises. This was plainly not a small enterprise. And going back to the Great exhibition and his stated profession of Inventor then here was endless opportunity to exercise his skills and make a name for himself .

Inside the catalogue there was Bland and Longs “New improved Elastic Folding camera “ with apparatus for changing papers in the paper process. There was also Bland and Longs Newly invented portable Dark tent , as well as a Portable folding camera. These all appear to be variations of similar products made by other companies. Standard practice I would have thought. In addition they manufactured Sliding Box cameras and lenses ! It must have been a busy enterprise. 

By 1856 Long was acquainted with the talented and extremely opinionated Thomas Sutton editor of the Journal Photographic Notes. Long contributed to this regularly it also served as publicity for the business. Of particular interest to the Calotypist is the list of Photographic papers in the catalogue. The right paper is absolutely critical to the Calotype process all papers are not necessarily equal and in the 1850s as indeed today the majority of papers do not work with this process where all the chemicals are in an extremely fine balance.



Thomas Sutton had this to say - A few words on the comparative merits of Turner’s and Hollingworth’s papers. Turner’s Patent Talbotype Paper is “hand made” and Hollingworth’s thin paper, now on sale at Bland & Long, is “machine made.” The latter shews the wire mark more than the former,until it is finally waxed, and then this defect disappears. It is much thinner than Turner’s,
and I imagine not much more than half the weight, being only 16lbs. to the ream. It has
been most carefully made, and is cleaner and freer from spots than any paper I have met with.

This was the same paper used by the hugely talented  M Flacheron of Rome whose “negatives on  paper are certainly among the best I have seen “ according to Sutton. This paper was not without faults but on the whole was highly regarded by all that used it. One correspondent noted Hollingworths paper is not so fine as it should be. The marks of the web on which it is made are too conspicuous , but the quality of the paper is all that could be desired.

Sutton recommended this paper for his waxed paper process detailed the October 1856 edition 
“ I have just sent them a stock of very old paper , and have ordered a fresh supply, which will be in good order for next season. On first receiving a consignment of this paper Messrs Bland and Long wrote to me saying : “We have examined the paper you sent us: compared with other current samples of paper, it appears very good and we think we can confidently recommend it “ In another letter Mr Long says “We shall recommend the Hollingworth paper to every photographer we come across: it is excellent “

In August 1856 Photographic Notes started with the words “Our subscribers will please to observe that Messrs Bland & Long 153 Fleet Street , are now London agents for this journal. We can safely say there was a close association with Thomas Sutton and Photographic Notes.


Whilst the Catalogue is both interesting and revealing , it is Chas Longs Chemical Wizardry that is of most interest. As a student it seems that he must have studied the new science. In his 1854 manual he gives clear and concise instructions for the Wet Plate Collodion process , the Calotype process as well as Salt printing and Albumen printing. This was at a time when the English Calotypist seemed hell bent on making the process as complicated as possible.

As a chemist and photographer Long was in an ideal situation , he could more or less guarantee the purity of his chemistry and could afford to experiment. Chemists of ten sold to the Photographer , although one of the main causes of failure was impure or adulterated chemistry. Something the photographic processes of the day would not tolerate. The Calotype in particular being a very fine chemical balancing act.

In his instructions for the Calotype he details three Variations. His English Calotype is a variation of Dr Diamonds process detailed the year before and using the Double Iodide of Potassium and silver method of preparing the paper. He also out lines a waxed paper process and interestingly what he calls the second process with the entire process stripped to the bare bones. It is clearly an exercise in Calotype Chemistry and I believe he would have used it to demonstrate how to make a Calotype to prospective clients. Why it didn’t catch on I don’t know ! I have made all three methods work , although the second process seems the most volatile .  All three are dependant on using the right variety of paper. The waxed process gives outstanding results, but like the English practitioner of the day I find the waxing a real chore !

Examples are of the Calotypes are given below as are the instructions of the second process.

The Calotypes In order of appearance 

The Calotype or Talbotype

The Second process

The waxed process

The second process is a piece of genius in its simplicity , it may have been of Longs own devising or it may have been a variation from the continent. 


In recent years  cameras and a Barometer by Bland and Long have come up for auction at Christies. 153 Fleet street is still there , although it is hard to tell if it is the same building. The bad news is that it is a Mcdonalds restaurant !

Between 1854 and 1856 Long was busy experimenting with the paper process. 1856 seems to have been the height of his activity. He became a member of the Photographic society of London , he became a regular contributor to Thomas Sutton Photographic notes and he released a revised edition of has manual. Interestingly Photographic notes seems to have been published at 153 Fleet street .

The manual remains essentially the same. Of the Calotype processes only the waxed process has changed. I am not sure why because his original process works very well but Long changes the ingredients of the Iodizer to include Iodide of Cadmium and Bromide of Cadmium. The main reason was to eliminate the gravely skies that plagued those that  practiced the waxed paper process. In the Catalogue is a section on making Stereo images and of course the necessary equipment this  was very fashionable at the time. Indeed the only reference I have been able to find of actual photography from Bland and Long is that they exhibited Mirror stereoscopes at the 1854 London photographic society exhibition .

Late in 1856 Long made a presentation to the Photographic society of London. . This is detailed in the December 22nd edition 1856.
He made the presentation to the Luminaries of the photographic world at the time including Sir William Newton , O G Rejlander, and Roger Fenton. Fenton was one of the leading English photographers of the 1850’s famous for his images of the Crimean war and also as Photographer to the Royal family .We can learn a lot from this presentation entitled “On some modifications of the paper processes” 

Long definitely saw the potential of the Calotype . 

“The process to which I have most exclusively confined my experiments are the Calotype, the waxed paper process and the positive paper process “

“ I purpose to string together such notes and observations as have appeared to me pertinent , during a considerable time spent in experimenting on the various photographic processes on paper . I do not purpose to raise the old war cry of paper versus collodion , but I think it is fair to state my conviction , that for most subjects of landscape and allied subjects the paper stands pre-eminent  the Collodion process in such hands as those of our late Honorary Secretary , and of many others equally successful in that branch of the art, produces wonderful results, but for subjects where texture , gradations of tint and distance are required , there is nothing in my opinion to compare with a good picture from the Calotype or waxed paper negative. Other advantages attending the use of paper , as a medium for preserving the photographic image have frequently been forced upon all photographer s - such as the lightness of paper as compared with glass ; the small quantity of chemicals that are necessary on a photographic tour, as compared with those required in the Collodion process : and the keeping qualities of the sensitive waxed paper with certainty of good results compared with the uncertainty of all the processes hitherto proposed for keeping Collodion plates sensitive - to say nothing of the liability of glass plates to breakage against the liability of glass plates to breakage against the almost impossibility of injuring a paper picture . “

He had the following to say about the waxed process , it also details his methodical approach. 

“We next come to the waxed process, of all the paper processes, perhaps, there is none other that has yielded such certain results in the hands of the uninitiated, as that on waxed paper, and there is no other process which bears on the face of it so much complication . Take for example the iodizing solution , as recommended by various operators. The rice-water , the Isinglass the gum , the albumen, the sugar of milk , the cyanide and fluoride of potassium , the cholride of sodium etc , and yet  there is no process essentially so simple: if any one will trouble himself to go through a series of experiments and in each trial let him leave out one of the chemicals , he will soon be made aware of the fact, that the only ingredients necessary to the success of the process are the iodides and bromides together with some organic matter to form a vehicle for the solution.”

Of course Long is absolutely right in his statement but he must of known that Fentons’ own method of preparing the Iodizer included Iodide of potassium ,bromide , cyanide, fluoride, chloride of sodium , sugar of milk , honey, and albumen  oh and free Iodine ! In rice water !! Ten ingredients . This was a bad move.

Long had experimented with Cadmium Iodide and Bromide and it was this chemical that he proposed as an improvement. I have no intention of testing this as in the Modern world it is regarded as a deadly Carcinogen . I can only take Long at his word. Which is more than his audience did. His improvements never caught on and during the questions and answers after his presentation he was given quite a torrid time by his peers. Particularly in his method of producing the positive print in which a proposed  using barium chloride to coat the paper and also lemon juice in place of acetic acid in the sensitizer. In all likely hood he was ahead of his time and Fenton in particular gave him a hard time. My intuition is that the Establishment regarded Long as an upstart , may be they didn’t like his new ideas or may be it was a matter of class, or may be it was because he was regarded as a chemist not an artist. 

I suppose that Long must have been a robust fellow , because inspite of having handled so many potent chemicals he was still alive in 1897 aged 69 a ripe old age for the time. 

In the Journal  the next article is about the new Dry Collodion process by Dr Hill Norris , this was the future and Long saw this straight away and wanted to be part of it. 

After his speech to the photographic society I can find no mention of Long and the Calotype .process .  As an inventor and a chemist  you can see the attraction of  a new improvement to the Photographic science plus he was clearly out to make a name for himself and his ideas for the Calotype  had clearly been rejected. 

Long set about conducting his own experiments in Dry Collodion and  the first mention of this is in Photographic notes of July 15 1857 , when Thomas Sutton writes that 

“ Mr Long has just sent us a magnificent negative , by a new Dry Collodion Process which he has perfected and is about to publish shortly in a pamphlet. This negative is brilliantly sharp , and possesses every gradation of tone beween absolute transparency and intense opacity. Nothing could be more satisfactory. We are impatient to learn the details of the process . “

Long duly obliged and a slim 31 page manual was sold at the cost of one  shilling and one pence. The Preface was written in June 1857 so the manual must have taken a while to appear on the book shelves.  The advantage of dry collodion over its wet plate relation was its keeping properties. Wet plate has to be exposed within 15 minutes after sensitization, with dry collodion it would keep up to a month. The down side was a loss in sensitivity.  Once again Cadmium was the key component in its chemistry. The manual is well written with easily understood instructions. It also has very clear diagrams.

I will detail the preface in full because it proved to be controversial and ultimately his undoing.

“The following pages shall be devoted to the description of a dry Collodion process , which I believe to be at once simple and effective. The experiments connected with the perfection of this process have occupied my leisure time for the space of two years or more, and have been conducted with all the care of which I can master. The constant repetition of them enable me to say, that whoever will follow diligently the process step by step, as detailed in this pamphlet must succeed in producing pictures in every was such as could be required by the most exacting critic.

The process is simple , clean and expeditious: and the resulting Negatives posses the exquisite softness of Albumen , the brilliancy of the wet Collodion , and the fine artistic texture of the paper process. .

To disarm criticism and to make peace with my fellow labourers in our art , I wish it to be understood that I do not claim the use of Collodion , of Gelatine , of Metagelatine or any of the Chemicals used in the process , most of these have been employed by others in various ways : I merely reserve myself the pleasure of placing in the hands of Photographers a definite and simple plan by which pictures may be taken on Dry Collodion “,

June 20, 1857.

(Metagelatine is gelatine modified by heat)

In the September 21st edition of the Journal of the photographic society  Longs process was praised for its reliability and longevity by G R Smith “In common with every photographer , I have longed for the day when Collodion in the dry form , easy of preparation could be employed in the field “ and that he “Found with much satisfaction that Mr Long , of Fleet Street , had discovered a process at once simple of preparation , and certain of working “.

He had been on a photographic tour and to his delight  he “found all that Mr Long had said , in favour of his process , fully realized. Picture after picture (22) came out with great beauty and , so far as the process is concerned , I have had not had a single failure “

When com pared to the Calotype or Wet Plate process  this must have seemed miraculous.

He found “that the development may be deferred for at least three weeks after exposure , and my candid belief is , that the plates may be kept for months without deterioration “

 In October 21st 1857, Robert Hunt wrote in praising Longs process and the fact that he been able to use plates 42 days after they had been sensitized and even though they were exposed in unfavourable conditions they had given excellent results.  He felt “ Convinced that the traveller might with perfect safety use plates which have been prepared for a month , and thus relive himself from much labour and frequent annoyance by the use of Mr Long’s process “

What we take for granted today was starting to evolve .

In Novembers edition of Photographic notes Thomas Sutton compared the virtues of  the process of Dr Hill Norris and Long’s process.  Both were simple in their preparation the differences being “

“ Dr Norris applies to the washed sensitive film a warm solution of geletine and alcohol. Mr Long applies a cold solution of gelatine and citric acid to a film only partially washed. Dr Norris dries the plate before a fire. Mr Long allows it to dry spontaneously. Both wash the plate in the same way before development : and develop - Mr Long with gallo-nitrate - DR Norris , either with galo-nitrate, or pyro-gallo-nitrate. The concluding operations are the same.

Both processes were considerably  simpler than other processes circulating at the time. 

However a review of Longs pamphlet in the July edition of the Journal of the photographic society says “As far as the chemical part of the process described in this book goes , there is very little originality shown , it being a detailed account of Maxwell Lyte’s metagelatine process , slightly modified from the original communication “

This overlooks the fact that Long had been experimenting with Cadmium and citric acid in the paper process , although whether he had been working on a dry collodion process for two years is in doubt when you consider that in his 1856 presentation he stated that  he had devoted “considerable time spent in experimenting on the various photographic processes on paper “ Or maybe he had and this was a Talbot situation with Dr Hill Norris beating him to the punch.

In Octobers edition of the Journal of the photographic society  alongside Hunts praising letter , is a communication from W Adrian Delferier ,  stating that  he shared his formula for metagelatine  with Long. And that Long had plagiarised it . He also referred  to Longs “very ingenious preface” . 

He continues with “ I wish it clearly to be understood  that I do not claim the discovery of preserving sensitive collodion plates , as we are indebted  for that  to Dr Hill Norris : but in justice to myself and brother amateurs . I do hope that , in future , should any of our little improvements be considered worthy of publication , the credit will not be so appropriated by others as to mislead such well-intentioned photographers as Mr G.R.Smith  “

And  in the December edition 

North-London Photographic Association. With G Shadbolt in the chair  ( George Shadbolt was one of the founder members of the London photographic society) .

At a meeting held at Myddeleton Hall , Islington , Nov 25  1857.

“The rev John  Walker read a paper on the dry Collodion process and exhibited some specimens.

A vote of thanks was passed to the Rev John Winter for his paper.

A long and animated discussion ensued. Mr Judge in the absence of Mr Barnes , explained and practically demonstrated Mr Barnes’s Dry Collodion process.

The chairman, in proposing a vote of thanks to Mr Judge (which was unanimously agreed to) said he would take the opportunity of expressing his regret that Mr C Long had omitted the very necessary ceremony of acknowledging Dr Hill Norris as the originator of the dry Collodion process as published in Mr Long’s book, to say nothing of the absence of any mention of Mr Barnes (who was certainly the first to exhibit any presentable pictures from a negative on dry Collodion) , or any other gentlemen of whose ideas Mr Long had made a good use , exclusively of his want of recognition “

This was a damning criticism and  the final nail . Longs reputation was in  tatters and from this point he no longer contributes to any photographic journals or research. 

Finally in the London Gazette, September 17 1858 it was announced that the partnership of Bland and Long  “was on the 4th day of September instant , dissolved by mutual consent . All debts due and owing to or by the late firm will be received and paid by the said William Russell Bland , by whom in the future the business will be carried on , under the style of Bland and Co.  - As witness our hands this 16th day of September 1858”

Ironically this was the summer of London’s Great stink , when the Thames became virtually an open sewer and Parliament had to be convened  to find a solution.  Fleet street  with its close proximity to the Thames and with the river Fleet running underneath it would have been in the thick of it. There was also a Cholera out break caused by water contaminated by sewage. 

Where Long went or what he did is a mystery .  Could he have joined the armed forces ? Gone abroad ? Bad health  ? Changed profession ? Family matters ? He resurfaces in 1881 as an electrician. But appears to have been missing from the 1860s and 1870s censuses.  If only he had stuck to the Calotype !

To be continued ….

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