PetaPixel

The Beauty of Decayed Daguerreotypes

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The Library of Congress has an extensive collection of daguerreotype photographs captured over the past two centuries. In addition to browsing the technically perfect ones that document history and people, it’s also interesting to look at metal plates that are flawed.

The Public Domain Review writes that plates were extremely susceptible to damage and decay:

[The plates were] developed by mercury fumes and fixed with salts. This fixing however was far from permanent – like the people they captured the images too were subject to change and decay. They were extremely sensitive to scratches, dust, hair, etc, and particularly the rubbing of the glass cover if the glue holding it in place deteriorated. As well as rubbing, the glass itself can also deteriorate and bubbles of solvent explode upon the image.

The decayed plates seen in this post were created by 19th century American photographer Matthew Brady, who is best known for Civil War images, celebrity portraits, and being the “father of photojournalism.”

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You can find more of these photographs over on The Public Domain Review.


 
 
  • http://twitter.com/TheCrazyLudwig Ian Ludwig

    Library of Congress – Now with built in Instagram filters

  • whoopn

    Interesting that the faces seem to go first…really creepy actually

  • Mark

    Photographs by Dorian Grey

  • Samcornwell

    Even this decayed, there’s an image to make out. Try and do the same with a digital photograph on a 150 year old, decayed hard drive.

  • Kodachrome64

    It’s interesting that these people have obviously long since passed away, but now their photographs are also passing away in a sense. People get old and die, but if their photograph was made, it too will get old and die, but just long enough for the future generations to witness it. Its kinda like memories fading.

  • Matt

    Some are cool and intriguing, but a lot are just sad. Too bad digital didn’t come around sooner to save some of these images. Historical images are very interesting, and some of the ageing makes some of the photos more interesting.