Smithsonian

Street Camera

This camera used “wet plates,” which were introduced in 1851. The wet-plate process allowed photography to move outside, because it was easier to control light. The wet-plate process gave rise to photojournalism. The photographer could make an unlimited number of prints form the negative image. However, exposure still took 5–15 seconds, and the plates needed to be developed immediately. Photographers often used a tent as a movable darkroom with them in the field.

Credit: Wet-plate camera, ca. 1857, 14 ¼” high, 26” long, Photographic History Collection, Division of Information Technology and Society, NMAH.