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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Frederick Townshend

Active:  UK

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Frederick Townshend
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

While there is some uncertainty over the identity of this photographer, there is no uncertainty over his mastery of waxed paper. An “F. Townsend” contributed six waxed-paper views to the 1855 exhibition of the Photographic Society in London. They were landscapes and architecture taken in Sussex and on the Isle of Wight. In the 1856 exhibition Townsend contributed three waxed-paper views of Tintern Abbey. The 1854 membership list of the Photographic Society included “F. Townshend of 6 Adelaide Crescent, Brighton,” which in the directories was a “furnished house,” so it may have been a temporary address. Frederick Townsend was on the 1859 list, living at 37 Lansdowne Place, Leamington. All of these listings are assumed to be the same Frederick Townshend who presented a talk “On the Waxed-Paper Process” to the Photographic Society in 1854. Townshend related that he started with Gustave Le Gray’s waxed-paper process but found it too tedious and too slow in exposure. During the photographically dead winter season he analyzed and tried “nearly all the formulae given by the various practitioners” and was amazed at the variation in ingredients and proportions. At the meeting Townshend exhibited a wide range of experimental examples demonstrating many different approaches to waxed paper. In the end, he advocated a very simple formula with few ingredients, forgiving in its exposure time, stable enough to make several days ahead, and producing a good density for printing. The following year Townshend gave another talk, “On the Quality of Paper Required for Photographic Purposes.” Once again he laid a range of experimental examples on the table. He found the English papers excellent as long as he did not wax them, for their gelatine sizing resisted the wax. Townshend ended by recommending most German and French papers (save for Canson’s), but he felt that better results could be had by working with the more uniform fibers of the English papers. None of Townshend’s photographs, experimental or exhibition, 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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