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HomeContents > People > Photographers > John Pearson Nash

Dates:  1828, 2 October - 1885, 17 August
Died:  England, London

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John Falconer, British Library 
A Biographical Dictionary of 19th Century Photographers in South and South-East Asia

Amateur, India
Indian Medical Service (Madras), 1854-78.
At a meeting of the Madras Photographic Society of 25 September 1856, he read a paper entitled ‘Collodion Process’ as practised with Newton’s Camera.[1] In Newton’s camera ‘the processes of exciting and developing the picture are carried on in the camera itself, and the necessity of introducing the hands, or of handling the plate in any way whatever until the picture is developed and fixed is entirely avoided...You will perceive that, by the employment of this camera, the necessity of a small dark tent, or a close confined and unpleasant room, will be dispensed with, photographers being permitted to carry on their manipulations in broad daylight, and in a free unpolluted atmosphere, objects greatly to be desired by all practising the art in this tropical climate...’[2] As well as the technical details of the procedures, Nash delivered himself of some remarks on the superiority of glass over paper negatives: ‘The chief merits of the ‘collodion process’ consist in the rapidity of its action, and its peculiar applicability to the ‘Instantaneous process,’ and to such perfection has this branch of the Art been brought in England, that photographic views of ships sailing, railway trains in motion, and a bullet ball passing through the air, have been taken, and upon one occasion a wheel revolving two hundred times in a minute, to which a newspaper having been tied, was placed in a dark room with a camera, a spark from a Leydon jar having been discharged near to the wheel when in rapid motion, a clear and legible impression of the newspaper was obtained in the Camera. The grand object of photography in my humble opinion is, to depict nature as she exists, and to represent animate with inanimate objects, the one lending a charm to the other, and giving to the whole a nearer approach to the picturesque than has yet been achieveable by the more slow and tedious method, viz. the ‘Paper Process’. [3]
Nash also makes some points regarding retouching of negatives and photographic ‘truth’and accuracy: ‘In connexion with the ‘paper process’, I regret to find (I speak from observation) that some photographers keep in their employ paid artists, whose duty it is to touch up or patch all imperfect negatives for the purpose of printing and exhibiting to the public what they erroneously call Positive Photographs, nothing is easier when representing a group of pagodas near a river than to call in the aid of an artist to darken or otherwise with paint, the extremely faint, or perhaps never existing reflection of the pagodas in the water, this being done, what do we find, certainly not a photographic reflection of the pagodas in the water, but the patch of paint from the Artists’ paint brush. By similar means imaginary clouds of all sizes, shapes and dimensions are manufactured, and freely mingled one with the other in defiance of all laws of Natural Philosophy, it being an established fact, that only certain clouds exist in fine weather, while other portand storms, rain, etc. I have frequently observed the elements above represented in a scene of great commotion and agitation, when below appeared all sunshine and tranquillity. These pseudo-photographs can be readily detected by a magnifying lens, and ought to be exposed for special condemnation, and I beg of the council either to prohibit such spurious productions from being exhibited at the approaching ‘Madras Photographic Exhibition’, or to call on the exhibitors to attach to them some other title than that of PHOTOGRAPH. A painted positive photograph, I consider, a high display of art, but a painted and patched up negative, for printing pseudo-positive photographs, a gross deception on the public.’[4]
At the Madras Photographic Society meeting of 25 September 1856, Nash ‘exhibited four positives on glass, views of the banqueting Hall, the Nabob of the Carnatic’s Palace, Government House and St George’s Cathedral, Madras, taken by the collodion process in Newton’s Camera in 3 seconds, the view of the Banqueting Hall and the Nabob’s Palace were remarkably clear, the Cathedral was also well focused and picturesque.’[5]
The journal of General Marcus Beresford, Commandant at Bangalore, records that ‘Dr Nash took a photograph upon glass of our house...’[6] The photograph itself can be found at p. 108. Other photographs in the journal are possibly also the work of Nash. 

  1. Λ The Indian Journal of Art, Science and Manufacture, 2nd series, vol. 1, no. 2 , 1856, pp. 45-50. 
  2. Λ ibid. pp. 45-46. 
  3. Λ ibid. pp. 48-49. 
  4. Λ ibid. pp. 49-50. 
  5. Λ ibid. p.p. 90-91. 
  6. Λ British Library, OIOC Mss Eur 72, p. 133. 

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