Training for a Young Man – 1870s
In 1876, at the age of 21, Reuben Sallows left his father’s farm and ventured into the nearby town of Goderich in search of work. While sitting for a portrait with a local photographer, R.R. Thompson, the young man was offered a job as a sales person to promote the artist’s services. After several successful years canvassing the countryside selling photographic enlargements, Sallows recognized his fondness for the trade and accepted a three-year apprenticeship with Thompson’s studio.
In the early 1870s, only two photographers are reported to have been working in the town of Goderich – E.L. Johnson and D. Campbell. The science of photography was still quite new, having only recently become available by average means to the general public. Most photographers of this period, specialized in formal portraits and cartes-de-visite, shot in elaborate studio settings.
Introduction of the “glass plate” process however made photographic portraiture cheaper and therefore more accessible, as it was no longer the one-off and expensive process of previous years. Use of glass negatives meant that each image could be reproduced as often as required.
People clamored to have their likenesses recorded, and inevitably, there was much competition between photographers for the trade. Interest in photography was growing rapidly and by the end of the 1870s, thousands of studios were to open across North America.
The technology of the art had advanced considerably during the last decade and photography was quickly becoming a popular trade and accessible necessity.