Archer was one of the leading pioneers and invented the process of albumen prints, one of the most important and influential achievements in nineteenth century photography.
He studied first as a silversmith and later as a sculptor, finding photography a useful tool for capturing image studies of his subjects. He was initially dissatisfied with the poor definition and long exposure times of the calotype and in 1848 invented albumen printing as he published in March 1851 in The Chemist. In publishing his new process, he did so knowingly without first patenting it opening the process to the public. He also later developed the ambrotype process jointly with Peter Fry.
Most of his prints are held in the collections of the Royal Photographic Society and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
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