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    WHS Crawford

    Map Academy

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    A shipping firm partner and photographer in British India, William Henry Stanley Crawford is renowned for the improvements he proposed to existing daguerreotype processes. He also ran a daguerreotype studio on Marine Street in Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1854. He was the secretary of the Bombay Photographic Society from 1856–60, as well as co-editor of its journal alongside photographer William Johnson. He was also an instructor of photography at the Elphinstone Institute, Bombay, from 1855–57, where he mentored photographers such as Hurrychund Chintamon.

    In 1853, Crawford published Treatise on Photography, in which he proposed an improvement to the existing daguerreotype process by suggesting that a cup of heated mercury be placed inside the camera during and for a while after exposure in order to heighten the sensitivity of the plate to light, reduce exposure time and obtain greater sharpness and detail. He also proposed a camera design that could accommodate this revised procedure for travel, doing away with the mercury box and, therefore, allowing for greater portability and speed. His development was later challenged by British photographer Antoine Claudet, who claimed that he had patented the process in 1840, but had failed to achieve much success with it.

    From 1855 onwards, Crawford shifted to using the calotype process, wherein he coated his paper negatives with wax. In 1856, he organised a showing of images made using paper negatives at the Bombay Photographic Society. He further outlined his process for paper negatives in an article titled “The Waxed Paper Process for Hot Climates” published in The Photographic News (1859), stating that the procedures recommended by practitioners in England were unsuitable for the Indian amateur photographer owing to variations in climatic conditions, especially the impact of Indian humidity and heat on waxed paper treated with organic matter.

    Crawford is believed to have abandoned professional photography in 1857, following his brief teaching stint at the Elphinstone College, to manage a steam navigation company and later, become a coffee planter in Wayanad, Kerala. He died in Tellicherry (now Thalassery), Kerala in 1883.


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