During the age of Western industrial development and colonial expansion, with its pocket watches, steamships, and railroads changing society’s sense of time and space, people believed that the machine’s ability to accurately perform repetitive tasks held the key to a better life. Photographers recognized the demand for accurate pictures of historic sites, and the latest technical improvement to the repertoire of processes, transparent collodion materials, was a way to meet this need. The collodion process’s increased sensitivity, retention of detail, and ease of reproduction made it, along with albumen paper prints, the new professional standard. Whereas the Pre-Raphaelite painters struggled for photographic accuracy, many people took pleasure in an otherwise simple photograph’s ability to let them count every brick in a wall. In Modern Painters (5 volumes, 1843-1860), John Ruskin (1819-1900) reveled in photography’s ability to preserve evidence:

My drawings are truth to the very letter-too literal perhaps;

so says my father, so says not the daguerreotype, for it beats

me grievously. I have allied myself with it… . It is certainly

the most marvelous invention of the century; given us just in

time to save some evidence from the great public of wreckers.1