Selfie, schmelfie! How self-absorbed do you really have to be to spend all of 20 seconds pointing a phone at yourself and tapping a few buttons? But a process that requires up to 15 minutes of statue-still posing, exposure to hazardous chemicals and construction of custom camera? Now that’s something worth bragging about.
So all hail pioneering American photographer Robert Cornelius, whose rough but certainly recognizable image, taken mere months after Louis Daugerre revealed his daguerrotype process in 1839, is undoubtedly the world’s first photographic self-portrait and may even be the first photographic portrait of any kind. Read more…
The way film photographers feel about digital photographers may be the way daguerreotype photographers feel about the film guys. Working with dangerous chemicals, buffing out silver coated plates, spending an entire day preparing for, taking and developing one shot; that’s what daguerreotype photographers love to do. It’s the difference between “crafting a photograph” and “just snapping away.”
In this short film — put together by photographer and videographer Patrick Richardson Wright — Seattle-based photog Dan Carrillo talks about that craftsmanship, as well as the beauty and permanence of daguerreotype photography that keeps him doing it when others say “why bother.” Read more…
Eight years ago, it was discovered that some of the earliest daguerreotypes ever taken were fading away before our very eyes. Given the historical significance of these photographs, watching them deteriorate over time was unacceptable. So, in an attempt to save them, George Eastman House has enlisted the help of the University of Rochester. Read more…
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. Read more…
Just in case this question ever comes up while you’re playing the world’s hardest game of photography trivia, what you see above is the first photograph ever snapped in Finland. Mats Söderlund of The Crop Factor writes,
This may look like something captured with Instagram on the newest smartphone, but it’s something a bit different indeed. It is the first photograph taken in Finland, ever. The photo dates back to the year 1842, and celebrated its 170th birthday last Saturday, November 3rd. The photograph is a daguerreotype [...] It was taken in Turku, which ironically also is Finland’s oldest city [...] The photographer was Henrik Cajander, a doctor by trade who lived on the very street the photo was taken [...]
As you can see the photo isn’t exactly perfect, technically or aesthetically speaking, but it is a big part of the history in Finnish photography. Some might call the crooked composition an amateur mistake, but the photographer was, in the realest sense, an amateur at what he was doing.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if there were a gallery of the first photographs shot in each country on Earth?
In daguerreotype photography, the first commercially successful photographic process, a positive image is recorded directly onto a silvered copper plate. Although mercury is traditionally used to develop the plate, there’s a way of creating daguerreotypes called the Becquerel method that eschews mercury in favor of non-lethal ingredients. According to Contemporary Daguerreotypes,
A polished silver plate is sensitized with iodine vapor. After the sensitized plate is exposed to light in a camera, the image will develop if the plate is further exposed to bright light through a red or amber filter. He called this the action of “continuation rays.” The curious aspect is you can watch the image form much like a Polaroid. Depending on how the subject of the image, how the plate was prepared and the development time, Becquerel images can be indistinguishable from mercury developed plates.
Did you catch that? The mysterious process uses sunlight to magically develop the images. In the video above, photographer Jerry Spagnoli shows how the Becquerel method is done, from start (polishing a piece of metal) to finish (a great looking photo). Read more…
The 120° panoramic image (and its crop) you see above is titled “Daguerreotype View of Cincinnati” and was captured in 1848 by Porter and Fontayne from Newport, Kentucky. It was created with eight full-plate daguerreotypes and shows a two mile stretch of the Cincinnati waterfront. Codex 99 writes,
The panorama is not only the first photograph of the Cincinnati waterfront but the earliest surviving photo of any American city. It is also the earliest image of inland steamboats, of a railroad terminal and of freed slaves. It may very well be one of the most important American photographs ever taken.
If you pay close attention to presidents, or money (or preferably both in this case) you may have noticed that one particular famous photo of President Abraham Lincoln taken in 1864 was the inspiration for the photo we now see on the five dollar bill. But you may have also noticed that the President’s mole is on the wrong side of his face on the money. Well actually it isn’t, the “mirror image” on the five dollar bill shows the President as he was in real life. The original photo, taken using an old technique called daguerreotype, is a mirror image.
Not unlike the tintype photography we posted on earlier in the week, daguerreotype yields a one-off positive on a photosensitive plate. The downside of this type of photography and the lack of a negative is that the final image is at the mercy of the lens optics, leading to the mirror image you see above. So remember, the mole was on the right side of Lincoln’s face… just in case a fifth grader gets indignant telling you otherwise.