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Vistas Mexicanas.  Rio Blanco, Alrededores de Orizaba, Estado de Veracruz.

Vistas Mexicanas.  Pueblo de Tlapacoya, Estado de Mexico.

Vistas Mexicanas.  Bosque de Chapultepec, Alrededores de Mexico.

Vistas Mexicanas.  Mexico, Biblioteca Nacional.

Vistas Mexicanas.  Pueblo y Canal de Ixtacalco, Alrededores de Mexico.

Vistas Mexicanas.  Pachuca, Plaza del Mercado, Estado de Hidalgo.

Vistas Mexicanas.  Estacion de Dos Rios, Ferro-Carril Nacional Mexicano, Estado de Mexico.

Vistas Mexicanas.  El Lago de Cuitzeo, Pueblo de Pescadores, Ferro-Carril Nacional Mexicano, Estado de Michoacan.

Tipos Mexicanos.  Carboneros, Estado de Mexico.

The Abel Briquet Photograph Collection at the Benson Latin American Collection

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*Click any of the photographs to see a larger representation.

The Abel Briquet Photograph Collection was acquired by the Benson Collection in 1980 as a gift from Ms. Roberta W. Brisbin. We are pleased to make this collection of 64 albumen prints available online for public viewing.

Originally from France, Abel Briquet (also known as Alfred Briquet) is believed to be one of the first modern commercial photographers in Mexico. The date that he first began working in Mexico is uncertain, but it is believed that he began his Mexican photography career in the 1870s (Casanova 2007) or in 1883 (Debroise 2001). Briquet received a commission in 1876 to photograph the Mexican National Railway between Veracruz and Mexico City, and was funded through an 1883 commission from the Campagnie Maritime Transatlantique to photograph Mexican ports. His work additionally included a series of cityscape and landscape views; photographs of flora and fauna; "typical" scenes; views of precolumbian, colonial, and modern buildings and monuments; and commemorative albums that were commissioned by the Diaz government. He opened his own photography studio in 1885, but it is not certain whether he was involved in portrait photography.

Mexican landscape scenes were particularly popular during the nineteenth century, and foreign photographers were responsible for shooting most of these images. During the early part of his career, Briquet followed many of the photographic conventions of his time. For example, in his Tipos Mexicanos series, he photographed the tlachiquero, a laborer who used a long gourd to remove sap from the maguey plant. The sap was then used to make pulque, which was a popular alcoholic drink. Some of Briquet's images were sold as postcards at handicraft and souvenir shops in Mexico. As his career progressed, Briquet began to photograph images of factories and other modern structures that represented the technological advancement of Mexico and "portrayed landscapes in transition." In 1909, Briquet created a noted album entitled Mexico Moderno, which included photographs of luxurious private homes which were built in the "French style" and were located in the Colonia Juarez neighborhood of Mexico City.

The following photographic series are credited to Briquet, with approximately dates provided as available: Vistas Mexicanas (ca. 1880), Tipos Mexicanos (mid-1880s), Rumbos de México (1890), Álbum Mexicano, Álbum de la Compañía Constructora Nacional, México (1901 and 1909), Ferrocarril Central Mexicano (1908 and 1910), México Moderno (1909), and Alrededores de México (1897 and 1910). The photographs in the Benson Collection are principally from the Vistas Mexicanas and Tipos Mexicanos series.

The photographs in this collection are albumen prints. Albumen paper was created in the mid-19th century. From 1855 through 1895, this type of paper was "the most widely used photographic printing material." Albumen paper was made by coating salted paper with albumen (egg whites). The paper was then "sensitized" by being floated in a silver nitrate solution. After the paper dried, it was placed in a frame with a wet collodion negative, and the image from the negative was printed onto the paper using diffused daylight. The paper image was then fixed onto the paper using sodium thiosulfate, and gold toning was applied to improve the color of the image and reduce fading. Sensitized paper tended to turn yellow after a few days. As a result, sensitization, printing, and processing were usually done on the same day, though adding citric acid to the silver nitrate solution could preserve the quality of albumen paper for several months. Photographers favored this printing technique because it produced images with significantly improved detail and contrast. Photographers tended to "albumenize" their own paper until the mid-1860s, and later purchased factory coated paper that they sensitized themselves immediately prior to printing. By 1872, pre-sensitized paper was widely available. The majority of albumen paper was produced in Dresden, Germany and was generally made by hand. Unfortunately, albumen prints are particularly vulnerable to aging, and many surviving prints have suffered from image fading, discoloration, and staining.

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No part of this exhibit may be reproduced in any form without the permission of the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, the University of Texas at Austin. 


Albumen Photographs: History, Science, and Preservation

Casanova, R. & Konzevik, A. (2007). Mexico, A Photographic History: A Selective Catalogue of the Fototeca Nacional of the INAH. Mexico City: INAH/CONACULTA/ Editorial RM.

Debroise, O. & de Sá Rego, S. (2001). Mexican Suite: A History of Photography in Mexico. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Fullerton, J & King, E. (2005). Local Views, Distant Scenes: Registering Affect in Surviving Mexican Actuality Films of the 1920s. Film History: An International Journal 17(1), 66-87, available at http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/film_history/v017/17.1fullerton02.html.

Reilly, J.M. (1980, May). The History, Technique, and Structure of Albumen Prints. AIC Preprints, 93-98, available at http://albumen.stanford.edu/library/c20/reilly1980.html


Vistas Mexicanas.  Rancho de San Marcial, Asoleaderos Para El Cafe, Estado de Veracruz.

Vistas Mexicanas.  Rio de Lerma, Ferro-Carril Nacional Mexicano, Estado de Michoacan.

Vistas Mexicanas.  Real del Monte, Vista Panoramica, Estado de Hidalgo.

Vistas Mexicanas.  Pueblo del Atoyac, Ferro-Carril Mexicano, Estado de Veracruz.

Vistas Mexicanas.  Pachuca, Hacienda de Beneficio de Guadalupe, Estado de Hidalgo.

Vistas Mexicanas.  Mexico, Alameda.

Vistas Mexicanas.  Rio Blanco, Cercania de Orizaba,  Estado de Veracruz.

Vistas Mexicanas.  Rancho de San Marcial, El Puente, Estado de Veracruz.

Tipos Mexicanos.  Rurales, Estado de Mexico.

Last updated: July 23, 2009
Created by: Rachel Little
School of Information, University of Texas at Austin
Please send comments to: blac@lib.utexas.edu

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