PhotoLexicon, Volume 12, nr. 26 (December 1995) (en)

The ‘Navorscher’ in the Field of Photography: a Platform for the Concepts and Recommendations of Julius Schaarwächter

Liesbeth de Klerk


In 1865, the first issue of a new Dutch magazine appeared, entitled ‘De Navorscher op het gebied der photographie, Tijdschrift voor photographie en aanverwante wetenschappen, uitgegeven door Julius Schaarwächter, fotograaf en handelaar in fotografische apparatuur in Nijmegen’ (‘De Navorscher‘ [literally ‘The Researcher’] in the Field of Photography, Magazine of Photography and Related Sciences, published by Julius Schaarwächter, a photographer and dealer in photographic equipment in Nijmegen’, see Biography Schaarwächter, Part 4). Schaarwächter’s initiative was a brave undertaking, because—as the title page of the first year of this magazine indicates—its printing was initially entirely ‘paid for by the writer’. The first issue in the De Navorscher‘s first year of publication had two different versions. It is not clear why this occurred. One version exists bearing the title stated above, which was produced by the printing company P.A. Geurts in Nijmegen. A second version exists, which bears a different subtitle: ‘De Navorscher op het gebied der photographie, Tijdschrift voor photographen en dilettanten, uitgegeven door Julius Schaarwächter te Nijmegen met medewerking van J. Lemling en Emil Becher’ (‘De Navorscher in the field of photography, Magazine for Photographers and Dilettantes, published by Julius Schaarwächter of Nijmegen with the assistance of J. Lemling and Emil Becher’). The publisher of this second version was P.N. van Kampen of Amsterdam. According to the title page, there were also representatives for the publication located in Brussels (Belgium), Surabaya (Indonesia), and New York. It was printed by C.A.Vieweg of Nijmegen, with the costs still covered by the author. With the exception of the title pages and a brief introductory article on Nièpce and Daguerre in the version printed by Geurts, the content of both issues is identical. In the foreword of this version, entitled ‘Aan den Lezer’ (‘To the Reader’), no reference is made to this matter. Perhaps the two versions were created as trial publications, in order to obtain different estimates from each printing company. Lemling and Becher are not mentioned on any of the other title pages, though the articles of both authors are still included. Schaarwächter not only took full responsibility for the magazine’s publication and initially the publishing costs, but apparently also all of the editorial work. Beginning with the second year of publication, Tijdschrift voor photographie en aanverwante wetenschappen had evidently become the definitive subtitle. For the second and third year of publication, Schaarwächter chose to do business once again with the Vieweg printing company. For the fourth through the ninth year of publication, however, the magazine was printed by P.A. Geurts. In the tenth year, the Uitgeverij P.N. van Kampen was commissioned to do the publishing. This was possibly also the case in the eleventh year, but the title page of the only known extant copy for this year is missing. Despite having an edition of approximately 400 copies, De Navorscher is today extremely rare. A virtually complete series of eleven volumes is currently preserved at the Amsterdam University Library (provenance G.A. Everts Collection). Only several pages are missing from this series. The library of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam holds the first and second year of publication. The library of the Print Room of Leiden University has the sixth and tenth year in its possession. In the collection of the Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis (‘International Institute of Social History’), there is a single copy of the first issue of the tenth year of publication (1875). This has a title that deviates— De Navorscher op het gebied der photographie en phototypie (‘De Navorscher in the Field of Photography and Phototype’), along with several additions concerning the qualities of the publisher and subscriber information. In 1875, Geurts was no longer mentioned as the magazine’s printer. After 1876, De Navorscher was no longer continued. In the last issue of 1876, there is nothing to indicate a premature ending. It is virtually unthinkable that Schaarwächter had lost his interest in De Navorscher or his inspiration to write articles after eleven years of being totally committed to this endeavour. Perhaps the responsibility of being the magazine’s sole editor had become too much for him or the financial weight too unbearable. In any event, it remains a fact that De Navorscher vanished from the scene without a trace. Two months later, Schaarwächter moved to Apeldoorn. Here he carried on for at least an additional ten years, running a photography studio and a store specialised in photographic equipment. Yet nothing is known of his having undertaken any projects as an author during this period.

De Navorscher was the second photography magazine in the Netherlands. One year prior, in 1864, another periodical on photography had previously been founded, entitled Tijdschrift voor Photographie, ten dienste van photographen, schilders, lithographen, boekdrukkers, militairen, graveurs en dilettanten in de kunst van photographeren (‘Magazine of Photography, for the Use of Photographers, Painters, Lithographers, Book Printers, Members of the Military, Engravers, and Dilettantes in the Art of Photographing’). This magazine was edited by L.P. van der Beek, captain of the general staff, stationed with the topographical bureau of the Dutch ministry of war. The Tijdschrift voor Photographie featured mainly articles on lab recipes, as well as technical developments and applications, with a slight emphasis on applications in the areas of science and topography. The special interest in photolithography was based on the need to reproduce topographic maps via photomechanical processes. The magazine’s staff included the scientists E.J. Asser, J.A. van Eijk, P.J. Kaiser, and Dr. E. Mulder. In 1865, an article by Schaarwächter was published in this magazine, entitled ‘Over de laatste uitvindingen op het gebied der photographie’ (‘On the Latest Discoveries in the Field of Photography’). Tentative plans for a number of follow-up articles concerning new developments in photography were never realised. This was quite conceivably due to some kind of disagreement with the editorial board, as it was precisely in the same year, 1865, that Schaarwächter started up De Navorscher, which featured articles differing little from those found in the magazine to which he had turned his back. It is known that Schaarwächter was by no means an easy man to get along with, when it came to his dealings with other colleagues.

The Tijdschrift voor Photographie survived for only three years. By 1866, it was out of publication, at which point De Navorscher no longer had any competition in the Netherlands, that is, until the founding of the trade magazine of the APV (Amsterdamsche Photographen Vereeniging, ‘Amsterdam Photographers Association’) in 1873, which was given the—hardly original—name of Tijdschrift voor Photographie (‘Magazine of Photography’).

At the time Schaarwächter published his first issue of De Navorscher in 1865, he knew exactly what he wanted: ‘Our goal will chiefly be to investigate and discuss in a simple style every progression that is made in the field of photography. In order to maintain and promote the general participation and interest that Photography enjoys, the objective of all Photographers must be not only beauty, but much more to accomplish the permanence of the products (…)’. [[1]] It was not Schaarwächter’s intention to adopt the lab recipes and discoveries of others indiscriminately, as was the practice with numerous other magazines. He planned to try out every new method personally, subjecting each to a scrupulous investigation before passing them on to the reader, furnished with his own commentary. Generally speaking, Schaarwächter stuck to his own resolution. Not only did he translate many of the articles drawn from foreign magazines himself, but he also adapted the texts, as well adding personal insights and comments. When addressing complex chemical processes, he rarely refrained from explaining what precisely went wrong and advising on how such failures were to be avoided.

Schaarwächter was extremely interested in the technical advances in the field of photography. Year in, year out, he continued to impart lab recipes for more effective chemical solutions and film paper treatments, which were being increasingly perfected. Time and again, Schaarwächter hastened to introduce any new discoveries in the area of objectives and cameras. In his foreword to the first issue for each year, he addressed his readers to underscore the fact that there was still a need for improvement in many areas of photographic technique. He was fully aware that each advance represented but one phase in a process of achieving perfection that could go on for quite some time. Schaarwächter held the view, for instance, that there was a need to develop chemical solutions with a greater sensitivity and to devise additional wide-aperture cameras—the subtle lighting found in the painter’s studio was to become likewise achievable in the photographer’s workplace. He also hoped that methods could be found so that the final product, the photo, would be less subject to fading and more resistant to the fatal influence of light. In his foreword to the fifth year of De Navorscher (1870), he wrote: ‘(…) the Daguerreotype is almost completely forgotten, the Talbotype no longer has any value, but also our current method on silver chloride paper will soon be replaced by the pigment print and the new printing methods (…)’.[[2]] There was only one technique that enjoyed Schaarwächter’s definite preference, which he discussed in dozens of articles, supplemented by major or minor improvements, and for which he believed there was simply no substitute: ‘(…) for the time being, there is nothing better that can possibly replace the production of negatives by means of collodion’. [[3]]

With regards to trends in photography, Schaarwächter took a practical and realistic approach, even though as a photography dealer he is certain to have taken advantage of the situation. In the second year of De Navorscher (Volume 1867), he stated that the public’s interest in the once so popular carte-de-visite portrait was fading. Schaarwächter hoped that the enthusiasm for portraits would surge once again, if photographers were to switch to the larger cabinet card format, which had originated in the United Kingdom. In the second issue of the same year, he included an example of a cabinet card photo as a magazine supplement. Six years later, he announced that the craze for the cabinet card portrait was already on the decline, as well acknowledging that photo albums with portraits were less in demand than in the past. Schaarwächter longed for new discoveries that would breathe life back into photography, dispelling what he described as the public’s oversaturation. In spite of this ‘oversaturation’, however, the carte-de-visite and cabinet card portraits nevertheless remained popular portrait formats up until the first decade of the twentieth century.

On numerous occasions, Schaarwächter addressed the issue of whether a photographer should be more of a traditional artisan as opposed to an artist. He basically preferred to leave both options open: ‘My sense is that photography is an art when practiced by an intelligent person with a feeling for art, but a craft when at the same time it is mostly undertaken in a craftsman-like manner.’ [[4]]

In his magazine, Schaarwächter strongly emphasised the artisanal aspects of the profession, especially because he was convinced that truly artistic results could never be achieved without a thorough knowledge of technique. ‘Photography acquires its rules through the inquiries and compounds of Chemistry and Physics. In order to now make these laws usable for practical photographers, they must be readily and assuredly implementable without a thorough knowledge of the aforementioned sciences and produce results that satisfy the requirements of painting.’ [[5]] Only on occasion did Schaarwächter address the artistic side, such as in an article on light and atmosphere when photographing church interiors, taken from the Bulletin Belge de la Photographie (‘Belgian Bulletin of Photography’), and in a second article on the so-called ‘Rembrandtseffect’ (‘Rembrandt Effect’), adapted from the German magazine Photographische Mitteilung.

In an essay entitled ‘Hoedanig behoort de opleiding tot photograaf te zijn?’ (‘What Should the Study to Become a Photographer Entail?’), Schaarwächter showed that he still preferred to view photography as art and the photographer as an artist. [[6]] He first provided a brief outline of the history of people’s regard for photography in its early days, when the new technique was experienced as being so magical and fascinating that everyone wanted to have their portrait taken, with only a few interested in good quality or a sensible composition. This stage was followed by a period during which regular artists raised the level of photography’s quality and the public also learned to distinguish the difference between a good and a bad portrait. As a result, it was no longer possible for the layman, e.g. the traveling daguerreotypist, to master his profession within the time span of a couple of weeks. Anyone wishing to achieve more than the serial production of mediocre portraits was obliged to undergo a legitimate training. What one needed to study depended on the specialisation one had in mind: portrait, landscape, or scientific photography. No one, however, could go without the fundamentals. Schaarwächter described what was required of anyone wishing to start up his own studio extensively. In addition to a thorough knowledge of chemistry, the principles of optics, photographic technique, and negative retouching, selling skills and experience in dealing with the public were also required. It was most important, however, that one develop an artistic sense by taking lessons in drawing, perspective, anatomy, and art history. Schaarwächter’s was most in favour of having the entire training be realised at an academy. He was extremely dissatisfied with the regular system in the Netherlands— undoubtedly an insight based on his own experiences—whereby the apprentice learned to master the profession in the studio of a photographer. The apprentices did little more than get in the way, while the master himself in fact had no time to teach, because all of his attention had to be given to the customer. Schaarwächter advised anyone wanting to study photography to spend a year in Berlin. It was there that the Gewerbe-Akademie and a ‘Kunstschule’ were located, as well as the exquisite museums with which the city was richly endowed, where one could examine true artworks to their full satisfaction. All of this clearly demonstrates that it was indeed Schaarwächter’s desire to see photography placed on an equal footing with painting: already for centuries, an education in drawing and anatomy, as well as the study and imitation of paintings produced by influential artists, had served as the most important elements in the education of any artist-to-be.

Determined to stay on top of developments in photography, Julius Schaarwächter’s greatest wish was to stay up-to-date on what was happening outside the Netherlands. In a successful attempt to keep this information coming, he sent De Navorscher to the editorial boards of various foreign photography magazines on a monthly basis. In exchange, he received publications such as the Bulletin Belge de la Photographie, the Photographic News from the United Kingdom, La Camera Oscura from Italy, the trade magazines of photographers associations in Berlin and Hamburg, Germany, and later also American magazines. In part because of the profusion of information and the large number of complete articles that he took from these and other foreign periodicals, Schaarwächter had no reason to overlook any aspect of photography. Cameras and objectives, shooting technique and lighting, treatment of negatives, paper, developer fluids, retouching, and countless other topics were addressed. The heyday of the wet collodion technique, which largely coincided with the existence of De Navorscher, was documented by Schaarwächter in numerous articles. In the first issue, he covered both the wet and dry collodion techniques extensively, partially within the framework of a course in photography. Each year, he also wrote one or more articles on preparing and processing collodion wool, the deiodination of collodion, the silver bromide collodion process, and applications of silver chloride collodion. Schaarwächter was also interested in carbon printing, otherwise known as oil or pigment printing. He published articles on this technique shortly after it had begun to grow in popularity in the mid-1860s, as a result of improvements made to the traditional oil pigment print. When a written piece appeared in Het Volksblad some ten years later, praising the carbon print as a new technique, Schaarwächter hastily responded in an angry letter to the Nijmeegsche Nieuwsbode. In it he stated that he had been writing about this technique since 1865 in De Navorscher. Moreover, his son had even won medals with carbon prints at exhibitions in Hamburg (1868) and Groningen (1869).

From time to time, the founder and only editor of De Navorscher made use of the magazine to promote his own photography business. In 1867, he introduced the highly promising ‘aplanatic’ objective of Dr. Steinheil. This lens was said to be perfectly suited for making ‘reproductions, buildings, landscapes, and group images’. [[7]] The author also stated that he had been offered the Dutch agency for these objectives. In a later issue of De Navorscher, D. van Monckhoven confirmed the qualities of Steinheil’s objective, which produced less deformation than the lenses used prior to this time. [[8]]

Schaarwächter devoted special attention to methods of photographic printing and reproduction: photogravure, photolithograph, phototype, photogalvanography, as well as photography’s application in wood block and copper engraving. He especially recommended a new technique called the ‘photovitreotype’, developed by J. Albert of Munich, Germany—also referred to as the ‘Albertype’, named after its inventor. Albert, who was German, had developed a method of making reproductions with much finer half-tints than acquired via, for instance, the photolithograph. The prints possessed a tonal quality that was almost equivalent to actual photos. Because one could make copies with the printing press, however, a large edition could be produced very rapidly, resulting in a final product that was far more permanent than an ordinary photo. Here too, Schaarwächter mixed his own business interests with objective advice: several months after he had written about Albert’s printing method, he announced he had signed a contract with Mr. Albert to teach this technique in the Netherlands as well. For this purpose, the two men co-founded a ‘learning institute’ in Nijmegen. Schaarwächter published a number of the points stated in this contract in De Navorscher. From this one learns that the study fee in Nijmegen was to be set at a phenomenal Dfl. 350, but with no mention of how long or how intensively one was to receive training for this amount. In Munich, Albert requested no less than Dfl. 1,000 himself: ‘(…) not because one learns anything different there, but because more than enough inquisitive people show up who will gladly pay a thousand guilders.’ [[9]] One could wonder whether an enterprise run in this manner might ever achieve any major degree of success.

As early as the first year of the De Navorscher‘s publication, Julius Schaarwächter voiced his opinion that a photographic association should be set up in the Netherlands, ‘(…) by friends of true progress (…), by men, who, rich in practical experience, also focus on the material welfare of all Photographers.’ [[10]] He proposed that this association could organise gatherings to discuss all interests that concerned photography. He also suggested its members could undertake critical investigations of new discoveries and improvements in the field of photography. His most important motive for setting up such an organisation, however, was his hope that photographers, working together in the form of an association, would be able to fight the decline in prices in their profession and establish fixed rates for different kinds of photos. Schaarwächter was very much concerned with pricing policy. When first writing about the new cabinet card format, which Schaarwächter believed was going to replace the carte-de-visite portrait, he seized the opportunity in order to establish a price estimate for the cabinet card photo. In his view, they were to at least cost three guilders per piece, with the selling price for six photos amounting to Dfl. 7.50 and twelve photos for Dfl. 12.50. At the same time, he complained that most photographers were asking far too low a price for the carte-de-visite portraits: some were even selling twelve pieces for two or three guilders. As an argument to condemn these fellow colleagues in the profession, he stated that it was impossible to produce quality work at such competitive prizes. Several years later, Schaarwächter triumphantly quoted an announcement made by an American photographer, F. Thorp, who informed his clientele that from this point forward he would only produce photos of high quality: ‘I cannot serve those who wish to have only cheap photograms, as I am unwilling to promote bad taste and to abase our beautiful art by producing images that insult the senses of art connoisseurs [translated from Dutch].’ [[11]]

Schaarwächter never managed to realise his own plans for a photographers association. Yet when learning that the APV (Amsterdamsche Photographen Vereeniging, ‘Amsterdam Photographers Association’) had been set up in 1872 in Amsterdam—without his knowledge or assistance—he was unable to conceal his disappointment. Schaarwächter promptly wrote a derisive article about the club and the people who ran it, which he had no intention of taking seriously. He described the chairman as being ‘more of a salesman than a photographer’, and referred to one of the association’s members as a ‘dealer in Hollowaijs pills’, i.e. the equivalent to calling someone a quacksalver. [[12]] Schaarwächter was even more troubled by the fact that the APV was publishing its own magazine, the Tijdschrift voor Photographie (‘Magazine of Photography’). He accused members of the editorial board of not paying for the stories they were printing, pretending to work based solely on a love of photography and expecting the same from their authors. And despite this, none of them had ever shown any willingness in the past to write a single article to be published in De Navorscher. It seems as if Schaarwächter also harboured personal grievances against the association’s founders. He came up with various obscure hints and vague insinuations, suggesting they were people who in the past had failed to meet their financial obligations. As if to denounce the association once and for all, he published a letter sent in to De Navorscher, undersigned (of questionable validity) by ‘a member of the Amst. Phot. Vereeniging [APV]’. The letter’s author complained that everything published in the Tijdschrift voor Photographie had already been seen in De Navorscher. He also stated that the association in no way lived up to its expectations and that there was no exchange of experiences among member photographers whatsoever. Moreover, the introduction of fixed fees had failed.

Schaarwächter always kept his readers up to date on important exhibitions—a vital phenomenon in the photography world—both in the Netherlands and abroad.

He announced the most prominent events well in advance, and also provided their rules and regulations for participation. Once an exhibition had ended, he discussed the jury’s report and the works that had been awarded. Schaarwächter particularly paid attention to those exhibitions for which he had served as a member of the jury, such as an exhibition hosted in 1868 by the photographers association of Hamburg, Germany, and an exhibition in Groningen in 1869. Noteworthy is that Schaarwächter’s son, Julius Cornelius, was among those awarded at both exhibitions.

In his account of the first exhibition organised by the APV in 1875, Schaarwächter reported that it had ended in a veritable fiasco: the number of entries was small, and the quality the photos, excluding several exceptions, was nothing special. While Schaarwächter was anything but unbiased in matters concerning this Amsterdam association, his critical assessment of the exhibition was not off the mark. Even in the association’s own magazine, it was graciously admitted that the organisation had been lacking, with the expected success falling short as a result.

In 1876, Schaarwächter himself organised a photo competition as part of a large exhibition held in the Gebouw voor Kunsten en Wetenschappen (‘Building of Arts and Sciences’) in Utrecht. He too experienced in a painful way just how difficult it was to ensure the successful outcome of such an enterprise. In De Navorscher, he gave a preliminary account that was filled with apologies for the fact that the organisation was not entirely successful: Some of the photographers had sent in their photos too late, the entries of a number of the Germans had been seized by customs, and others had indicated that they preferred to show their work at exhibitions in Munich, Paris, and Philadelphia. Somewhat disappointed with the result, Schaarwächter promised to write about the Utrecht event once the entries submitted had also been assessed. But this was never to occur: four months later, De Navorscher had ceased to exist. For ten years, De Navorscher was a unique magazine—for a number of years, it was even the only publication on which photographers submitted could rely. De Navorscher flourished at a time when the collodion process was still influential. Due to the great interest in this process, along with Schaarwächter’s accounts of his experiences in working with this technique, this magazine is an extraordinarily interesting historical source for academic researchers today.

When considering the De Navorscher, there is no denying that Julius Schaarwächter possessed a certain vision when it came to the field of photography. With his magazine, he provided support for those photographers who wished to keep up with the latest developments and technical improvements. When considering the infrastructure required for photography in the Netherlands, Schaarwächter believed that a school of training and a trade association also had to be established. He was familiar with the German organisational structure in the field of photography and had apparently made it his task to initiate similar developments in the Netherlands. Schaarwächter’s ego got in the way, however. Lacking a productive collaboration with other interested parties, he was surpassed in his endeavours.


[1] Julius Schaarwächter, Aan den lezer!, in De Navorscher op het gebied der photographie 1 (1865), p. 3.

[2] J. Schaarwächter, Aan den lezer!, in De Navorscher op het gebied der photographie 5 (1870), p. 2.

[3] J. Schaarwächter, Aan den lezer!, in De Navorscher op het gebied der photographie 5 (1870), p. 1.

[4] J. Schaarwächter, Allerlei van den dag, in De Navorscher op het gebied der photographie 2 (1867), p. 3.

[5] J. Schaarwächter, Aan den lezer!, in De Navorscher op het gebied der photographie 2 (1867), p. 1.

[6] De Navorscher op het gebied der photographie 10 (1875), p. 26-31.

[7] Nieuwe aplanatiesche objectieven, in De Navorscher op het gebied der photographie 2 (1867), p. 71.

[8] D. van Monckhoven, Over het nieuwe objectief van Dr. Steinheil, in De Navorscher op het gebied der photographie 2 (1867) p. 177-181.

[9] Albertypie, in De Navorscher op het gebied der photographie 5 (1870), p. 160.

[10] Over den vooruitgang in de photographie, in De Navorscher op het gebied der photographie 1(1865), p. 31.

[11] J.S., Albertypie of lichtdruk, in De Navorscher op het gebied der photographie 6 (1871), p. 18.

[12] Een nieuwe Photographen Vereeniging, in De Navorscher op het gebied der photographie 7 (1872), p. 43.