I Pays! Rejlander, Oscar G.  (British, 1834-1910)

On first glance this print of O.G. Rejlander’s I pays looks like an engraving. It appeared as a full page photogalvanograph in The Journal of the Photographic Society of London of 1859 and was accompanied by the article, Photogalvanography, or Nature’s Engraving” authored by Paul Pretsch, the inventor the process. ⁠ Staging an ‘every day’ moment in the genre style, Rejlander created and captured a narrative imbued with gesture and candid expression, promoting the notion that photographs could be fine art. In this print a frozen photographic moment and an ‘illustrative’ raw ink-on-paper print syntax combine to present to the publication’s subscribers a compelling, well executed and now largely forgotten example of primitive photogravure. ⁠One step closer to solving both the permanence and repeatability issues facing photography in the mid 1850s, the print is made from a copper plate electroplated with iron – an early example of aciérage – which enabled a print run of thousands rather than hundreds. ⁠ A close comparison of the photogalvanograph with an albumen print from the same negative held at the George Eastman House reveals the accuracy of the image’s translation into ink. It also exemplifies the unique look of the ink-on-paper photographic syntax.⁠

From the writing of Pretsch… The photograph as well as the copper plate have not been executed expressly for this purpose and for this journal.; both of them were executed a few years ago; therefore this specimen does not represent a perfect specimen of the art of ‘Nature’s Engraving.’ It will only direct the attention of the public again to this mode of making photography [popular; of bringing her productions to every house, every cottage, and perhaps to every library.; of making photographic pictures lasting and durable for centuries, and raising the photographer to the rank of an author.. I am of the opinion that “Nature’s Engraving” has been treated somewhat harshly – not by the public, but by certain persons who lay claim to an exclusive right to provide the people with photographs: But I still trust the good sense and discrimination of an impartial public. I still consider England as especially fit for carrying out such an important enterprise, although France has taken the lead in stimulating tho excretions of individuals in this direction. [1] [2]

Reproduced / Exhibited

Malcolm R. Daniel, and Florian Rodari. Graver La Lumière: L’héliogravure D’alfred Stieglitz À Nos Jours Ou La Reconquête D’un Instrument Perdu. Vevey, Suisse: Fondation William Cuendet & Atelier de Saint-Prex, 2002. p. 89 174.

Pollack, P. The Picture History of Photography: From the Earliest Beginnings to the Present Day. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc, 1998. p.

Jones, Edgar Y. Father of Art Photography: O.g. Rejlander, 1813-1875. Greenwich, Conn: New York Graphic Society, 1973. p. 47.

Hanson, David A, and Sidney Tillim. Photographs in Ink: [exhibition], May 1-29, 1996, University College Art Gallery, Teaneck. Teaneck: NJ, 1996. plate 2.

Hanson, David A. Checklist of Photomechanical Processes and Printing, 1825-1910. , 2017. p. 115.


[1] Photogalvanography or Nature’s Engraving The Photographic Journal, Volume 6, No. 89 Sep 15 1859 P. 31

[2] Gernsheim, Helmut. The History of Photography: The Age of Collodion. London: Thames and Hudson, 1989. 38 – 40