Lala Deen Dayal & Glass Plate Photography

Glass plate photography could refer to one of several different early photo techniques. Lala Deen Dayal was using the wet plate collodion techniques. The “negative” is a large glass plate ranging in size from about 4”x6” to 11”x14” or larger. Dayal was typically working with roughly 8”x10” plates. One side of the plate is coated with an emulsion (collodion or gelatin) and a photosensitive silver salt (silver nitrate). The plate is loaded into a large view camera. The exposures were long, several seconds to several minutes. The exposed plate would then need to be developed before the collodion dried. So, in addition to a large 8×10 or 11×14 camera, the photographer would need to travel with a darkroom. These were usually horse-drawn vans or wagons. Once the plate was dry it was relatively stable.


Prints were contact prints (no enlargements) where the plate was placed directly on the paper (I think Dayal typically printed on albumen), emulsion side down, exposed, developed, fixed and sometimes toned for color and stability.

The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem has a large collection of Lala Deen Dayal’s photographs from the 1870’s if you want to see the real thing.

There is a good description of the process at Getty

The Wikipedia article on Collodion process is also good:

A couple of my favorite contemporary photographers use the process to good effect:

Stefan Sappert



Sally Mann



~ by severalfourmany on April 13, 2012.

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