Frederick Scott Archer's introduction of the collodion process in 1851 quickly rendered obsolete the first photographic processes, the calotype and daguerreotoype. Not without inconveniences, the "wet plate," or collodion process, offered the first truly practical means of obtaining permanent negatives on glass. One could even produce a positive image, called an ambrotype, by coating the back of the negative with black paint. The highly detailed, grainless image and the low cost of the process outweighed the annoyances of coating the plate with sticky emulsion and transporting a complete darkroom box. The collodion process continued to dominate the photographic market until the mid-1880s when gelatin dry plates were perfected.
Even though many landscape photographers willingly burdened themselves with the cumbersome "wet plate" equipment, the process clearly functioned most conveniently for the production of studio portraits like Murice Cundler. Photographed a few years after the collodion process was introduced, this dignified sitter was surrounded with studio props and greenery to effect a sitting room atmosphere. Most likely, many clients sat among these same studio elements in Alexander's Ipswich photographic studio, located in Suffolk County in eastern England. Alexander, a prominent Quaker banker, is also known for his photographs of student activities which he produced in an effort to raise funds for the Ipswich Ragged School, which opened in 1849.