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HomeContents > People > Photographers > C.J. Muller

Active:  India / Great Britain

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for C.J. Muller
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

Virtually nothing is known of Muller’s life, not even his citizenship. In 1851 he wrote to the Athenaeum from “Patna in the East Indies.” Under the control of the East India Company since the eighteenth century, Patna was a major trading center hosting a variety of nationalities, including Dutch and Danish. Muller offered no explanation of why he was there, but the photographic process that he had developed impressed not only the editor but also the “experienced photographer” that the editor consulted. Muller’s was a modification of Talbot’s calotype process and closely related to Dr. Thomas Wood’s variant Catalyssotype, on which it was judged to be an improvement. By 1857 Muller resided in London and wrote to the Journal of the Photographic Society, hinting that he had abandoned his experiments in India because of ill health. Muller referred to his 1851 process and noted that he had improved it by simplifying the chemistry. He kept the image on the surface of the negative paper rather than letting it embed in the fibers; this not only produced a sharper image but also resulted in a paper that was self-developing. Muller had experimented with various French and English papers, finding promise in some of the latter, but he felt that the sizing in all of them was a problem. He argued for the adoption of an Indian paper made from the Daphne cannabina, which had very fine fibers and was “highly transparent.” He added: “It is also exceedingly strong, and it behaves admirably with photographic chemicals. I think it a promising fibre for photographic paper.” An evergreen, the plant is better known today as Daphne papyracea and is the principal source of handmade papers in Nepal. All parts of the plant are highly poisonous, and perhaps it was the source of his ill health in India. None of Muller’s photographs are known to have survived. 
Roger Taylor & Larry J. Schaaf Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 4 Nov 2012. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
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