Madhavan Pillai, a Tamil Nadu-born researcher and photographer, moved to the US in 2006 to study daguerreotype.

Touted as among the first photographic processes, it involves producing images on highly polished silver-clad copper plates.

He returned to India in 2009 and set up the Goa Centre for Alternative Photography (Goa-CAP), which works to research and experiment with historical processes used in photography and spread knowledge among artists across India.

Here are pictures from the time period 1836 to 1886, which saw a transition from daguerreotype to the more novel Kodak.


1. Front view of the Ashokan Edict Pillar Photographer: Benjamin Simpson Technique: Albumen prints technique The paper coated with egg white (albumen) and salt is dried and dipped into silver nitrate. It is then placed in contact with a negative.

2. Kunkurwali Kothe Photographer: Darogha Ubbas Ali Technique: Albumen prints on carte de visite A thin paper photograph was mounted on a thicker paper card.

3. The interior of the Tuncum Madura Photographer: Edmund David Lyon Technique: Wet plate collodion In this technique, an iodide solution is applied to a glass plate to produce the picture.

4. Camp scene Jellalabad Photographer: John Burke Technique: Wet plate collodion In 1842, during the Afghan siege on an isolated British outpost in Jellalabad, Burke along with photographer William Baker risked their lives to capture the scenes on the ground.

5. Abu Zaffar Sirajuddin Photographer: Harriet Christina Tytler Technique: Waxed paper negatives Warm wax is applied onto a paper which is salted and then dipped into silver nitrate. Whey serves as the binder and the negative formed is developed using gallic acid.

6. Group of bankers in India Photographer: Charles Shephard Technique: Woodburytype

Once the gelatin (exposed to UV-rich light) hardens, it is soaked in warm water to dissolve the unhardened portion. The resulting relief image is pressed into a thick sheet of lead. After the gelatin has been set sufficiently, the print is stripped from the mould, trimmed, and usually mounted onto a larger sheet or card.

7. A Turkish woman Photographer: James Robertson Technique: Calotype A sheet of paper is coated with silver nitrate, dried and coated again with potassium iodide. This produces silver iodide. The paper is then coated with gallic acids and exposed to the camera.

8. Group of Lamas Photographer: John Claude White Technique: Glass plate negatives Alight-sensitive emulsion is fixed to a glass plate by using a binder medium.

9. Akbar’s tomb at Sikandra Photographer: F W Baker Technique: Stereoscopic daguerreotypist Two identical images were placed side by side, resembling the distance between our eyes. A stereoscope was used to observe the images and this showed them as three-dimensional.

10. Sir Mir Mohammed Photographer: Frederick Bremner Technique: Collotype prints A liquid solution of gelatin and potassium bichromate is spread on a metal, glass, or acetate plate. This plate becomes light-sensitive upon drying.