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HomeContents > People > Photographers > James Lancaster Ranking

Other: Dr. James Lancaster Ranking 
Dates:  1817 - 1897
Active:  Great Britain / India

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Approved biography for James Lancaster Ranking
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

Dr. Ranking spent most of his professional career in India and eventually rose to be surgeon general of the Indian Medical Service. In 1887 he looked back in the Amateur Photographer, to the time when “in 1857, while serving in Burmah, I took up the Calotype process, under the tuition of the late Colonel Greenlaw, of the Madras Army.” Alexander John Greenlaw’s waxed paper had important advantages over collodion in India, being both more readily handled in a hot climate and far more portable than glass plates. When Ranking wrote in 1887, glass was just being supplanted by more flexible supports — first paper and soon plastic films. In this period of a new upheaval in the technology of the medium, Ranking recalled, “I was one of the earliest of the great army of amateur photographers to suggest the use of gelatino-bromide paper as a substitute for glass plates for negative work in the Camera.” Ranking adapted some of the early commercially made papers, intended for printing but in his hands the precursors of film, for making negatives. In addition to greater portability, paper did not suffer from the halation problems inherent in glass plates and thus rendered highlights more accurately. Ranking was also a fan of the new tricycles then emerging, seeing them as “good weight-carriers” for a variety of photographic equipment and possibly even for a dark tent. He displayed prints from some of his paper negatives in the 1886 Photographic Society exhibition. 
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. 
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