Edited by Gerald Boerner
Building on the work of Joseph Niépce, Louis Daguerre developed a photographic process that was capable of capturing reality and saving it as a photograph. In the beginning of the photographic technology, the Daguerreotype was the process of preference for portraits. For the first time the average worker was able to obtain a picture of family members and loved ones without incurring the cost and time it took for a painted portrait.
The industrial revolution produced changes in society that provided the common person with a wage for the first time. These remembrances in the form of daguerreotypes provided a way of documenting peoples’ lives. True, these images were not easy to duplicate (if at all), but they were more than anything that was available to the general population previously.
In addition, there were a handful of daguerreotypists who were able to capture beautiful landscapes. While these latter photographers were not as plentiful as those making portraits, they produced some very memorable images.
This technology lasted from 1839 through the mid-1850s when other technologies became available. None the less, we have Niépce and Daguerre to thank for these amazing images. GLB
These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2011 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved
[ 2555 Words ]
Quotations Related to DAGUERREOTYPE:
“The first mentioned is the good old daguerreotype, with its perfection, its beauty, its accuracy, and its prompt execution. It has never been excelled by any production of the camera.”
— Abraham Bogardus
“Good artists hate good photographs, where every object on the field is reproduced with wonderful distinctness; but will go into raptures over an under-timed one, in which the high lights break weirdly out from broad masses of shadow; or an over-timed one wherein light and atmosphere have saturated everything to grayness.”
— Harry L.A. Culmer
“They are documents, “family memories”, nothing more. They were made in the days before “artistic photographs,” and “light effects,” and theatrical “posing.” The photographers of daguerreotypes had not yet been classified “artists” sporting the classic floating tie and the rumpled and dirty hair.”
— Peter C. Bunnell
“There is always, to us, a strange fascination, in portraits. We love to dwell long upon them—to infer many things, from the text they preach—to pursue the current of thoughts running riot about them.”
— Walt Whitman
“Time, space, both are annihilated, and we identify the semblance with the reality.—And even more than that. For the strange fascination of looking at the eyes of a portrait, sometimes goes beyond what comes from the real orbs themselves”
— Walt Whitman
“For hours I have held it, carefully noting all the soft minutiae of light and shade: and still the little rough-edged silver tablet was a joy forever, discovering some merit of complete similitude hitherto unnoted; it seemed inexhaustible, yielding new pleasure as often as consulted.”
— Shade (pseudonym)
“By this process when carefully managed, the time required in the camera is very short. With a well arranged light from 5 to 10 seconds is sufficient. Great precaution should be used, not to overtime.”
“There is the daguerreotype, for one. How much more beautiful than any photograph were those silvery, refined pictures which were the first children of Daguerre’s invention! I well remember the first one seen in this city, whether taken here or brought from Paris I do not now remember.”
— Clarence Cook
World Photography Day: Louis Daguerre & Joseph Nicéphore Niépce…
Today, we take our photographs for granted. But next time you’re flicking though photos from your last holiday, remember that there was once a time when photography didn’t exist. A time when those precious moments couldn’t be captured, uploaded and shared.
On August 19th, celebrate photography and share your world with the world!
A daguerreotype (original French: daguerréotype) was the first large scale commercial photographic process.
It was developed by Louis Daguerre together with Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. Niépce had produced the first photographic image in the camera obscura using asphaltum on a copper plate sensitized with lavender oil that required very long exposures.
The image in a Daguerreotype is formed by amalgam i.e. a combination of mercury and silver. Mercury vapor from a pool of heated mercury is used to develop the plate that consists of a copper plate with a thin coating of silver rolled in contact that has previously been sensitized to light with iodine vapor so as to form silver iodide crystals on the silver surface of the plate.
Exposure times were later reduced by using bromine to form silver bromide crystals.
The image is formed on the surface of the silver plate that looks like a mirror. It can easily be rubbed off with the fingers and will oxidize in the air, so from the outset daguerreotypes were mounted in sealed cases or frames with a glass cover.
History of the Daguerreotype
When viewing the daguerreotype, a dark surface is reflected into the mirrored silver surface, and the reproduction of detail in sharp photographs is very good, partly because of the perfectly flat surface.
Although daguerreotypes are unique images, they could be copied by redaguerreotyping the original.
The daguerreotype was the first publicly announced photographic process and while there were competing processes at the time, the accepted scientific etiquette of the time was that discovery was attributed to first published. All of the initial photographic processes required long periods for successful exposure and proved difficult for portraiture. The daguerreotype did become the first commercially viable photographic process in that it was the first to permanently record and fix an image with exposure time compatible with portrait photography, but this was after extra sensitizing agents (bromine and chlorine) were added to Daguerre’s original process.
Joseph Nicéphore Niépce
Joseph Nicéphore Niépce was a French inventor, most noted as one of the inventors of photography and a pioneer in the field. He is well-known for taking some of the earliest photographs, dating to the 1820s. As revolutionary as his invention was, Niépce is little known even today.
When lithography became a fashionable hobby in France in 1813, Niépce began to experiment with the then-novel printing technique. Unskilled in drawing, and unable to obtain proper lithographic stone locally, he sought a way to provide images automatically. He coated pewter with various light-sensitive substances in an effort to copy superimposed engravings in sunlight.
Joseph Niépce took what is believed to be the world’s first photographs, in 1825, of a 17th century engraving of a man with a horse and of an engraving of a woman with a spinning wheel. Niépce did not have a steady enough hand to trace the inverted images created by the camera obscura, as was popular in his day, so he looked for a way to capture an image permanently. He experimented with lithography, which led him in his attempt to take a photograph using a camera obscura. Niépce also experimented with silver chloride, which darkens when exposed to light, but eventually looked to bitumen, which he used in his first successful attempt at capturing nature photographically. He dissolved bitumen in lavender oil, a solvent often used in varnishes, and coated the sheet of pewter with this light capturing mixture. He placed the sheet inside a camera obscura to capture the picture, and eight hours later removed it and washed it with lavender oil to remove the unexposed bitumen.
One of the two earliest known evidences of photographic activity, taken by Nicéphore
Niépce in 1825 by the heliograph process. This illustration is of an etching printed from a
metal plate that was etched following alteration of the ground by sunlight; the image
is of a 17th Century Flemish engraving showing a man leading a horse.
He began experimenting to set optical images in 1793. Some of his early experiments made images, but they faded very fast. It was said that he made the first long lasting images in 1824. The earliest known example of a Niépce photograph (or any other photograph) was created in June or July, 1827, according to some information. Niépce called his process heliography, which literally means "sun writing". Nevertheless, semiologist Roland Barthes, in a Spanish edition of his book "La chambre claire", "La cámara lúcida" (Paidós, Barcelona,1989) shows a picture from 1822, "Table ready", a foggy photo of a table set to be used for a meal.
Daguerre was born in Cormeilles-en-Parisis, Val-d’Oise, France. He apprenticed in architecture, theater design, and panoramic painting. Exceedingly adept at his skill for theatrical illusion, he became a celebrated designer for the theater and later came to invent the Diorama, which opened in Paris in July 1822.
In 1822 Joseph Nicéphore Niépce produced the world’s first permanent photograph (known as a Heliograph). Daguerre partnered with Niépce three years later, beginning a four-year cooperation. Niépce died suddenly in 1833. The main reason for the “partnership”, as far as Daguerre was concerned, might have been connected to his already famous dioramas. Niépce was a printer and his process was based on a faster way to produce printing plates. Daguerre perhaps thought that the process developed by Niépce could help speed up his diorama creation.
Daguerre announced the latest perfection of the Daguerreotype, after years of experimentation, in 1839, with the French Academy of Sciences announcing the process on January 7 of that year. Daguerre’s patent was acquired by the French Government, and, on August 19, 1839, the French Government announced the invention was a gift “Free to the World.”
Daguerre and Niépce’s son obtained a pension from the Government in exchange for freely sharing the details of the process. Daguerre died in Bry-sur-Marne, 12 km (7 mi) from Paris. A monument marks his grave there.
Boulevard du Temple, Paris, 1838, by Daguerre (the first picture of a person).
The image shows a busy street, but because exposure time was more than ten
minutes, the traffic was moving too much to appear. The exception are the
persons at the bottom left – a man who stood still getting his boots
polished along with the shoe-shine boy.
Artists and inventors, since the late Renaissance, had been looking for a mechanical method of capturing visual scenes. Previously, using camera obscura, artists would manually trace what they saw.
Previous discoveries of photosensitive methods and substances—including silver nitrate by Albertus Magnus in the 1200s, a silver and chalk mixture by Johann Heinrich Schulze in 1724, and Nicéphore Niépce’s bitumen-based heliography in 1822—contributed to development of the daguerreotype. In 1829 French artist and chemist Louis J.M. Daguerre, contributing a cutting edge camera design, partnered with Niépce, a leader in photochemistry, to further develop their technologies.
After Niépce’s 1833 death, Daguerre continued to research the chemistry and mechanics of recording images by coating copper plates with iodized silver. In 1835 Daguerre discovered—after accidentally breaking a mercury thermometer—a method of developing images that had been exposed for 20–30 minutes. Further refinement of his process would allow him to fix the image—preventing further darkening of the silver—using a strong solution of common salts. The 1837 still life of plaster casts, a wicker-covered bottle, a framed drawing and a curtain—titled L’Atelier de l’artiste—was his first daguerreotype to successfully undergo the full process of exposure, development and fixation.
The French Academy of Sciences announced the daguerreotype process on January 9, 1839. Later that year William Fox Talbot’s announced his calotype. Together, these inventions mark 1839 as the year photography was invented.
Instead of Daguerre obtaining a French patent, the French government provided a pension for him. In Britain, Miles Berry, acting on Daguerre’s behalf, obtained a patent for the daguerreotype process on August 14, 1839. Almost simultaneously, on August 19, 1839, the French government announced the invention as a gift “Free to the World.”
The daguerreotype, along with the Tintype, is a photographic image allowing no direct transfer of the image onto another light-sensitive medium, as opposed to glass plate or paper negatives. Preparation of the plate prior to image exposure resulted in the formation of a layer of photo-sensitive silver halide, and exposure to a scene or image through a focusing lens formed a latent image. The latent image was made visible, or “developed”, by placing the exposed plate over a slightly heated (about 30°C / 90°F) cup of mercury. Daguerre was first to discover and publish (in the publication of the process and the English patent of 1839) the principle of latent image development.
The mercury vapour condensed on those places on the plate where the exposure light was most intense (highlights), and less so in darker areas of the image (shadows). This produced a picture in an amalgam, the mercury washing the silver out of the halides, solubilizing and amalgamating it into free silver particles which adhered to the exposed areas of the plate, leaving the unexposed silver halide ready to be removed by the fixing process. This resulted in the final unfixed image on the plate, which consisted of light and dark areas of grey amalgam on the plate. The developing box was constructed to allow inspection of the image through a yellow glass window to allow the photographer to determine when to stop development.
The next operation was to “fix” the photographic image permanently on the plate by dipping in a solution of hyposulphite of soda, often known as “fixer” or “hypo”, to dissolve the unexposed halides. Initially Daguerre’s solution to this step was to use a saturated salt solution but later adopted Hershel’s suggestion of Sodium thiosulphate, as did WHF Talbot.
The image produced by this method is extremely fragile and susceptible to damage when handled. Practically all daguerreotypes are protected from accidental damage by a glass-fronted enclosure. It was discovered by experiment that treating the plate with heated gold chloride both tones and strengthens the image, although it remains quite delicate and requires a well-sealed enclosure to protect against touch as well as oxidation of the fine silver deposits forming the blacks in the image. The best-preserved daguerreotypes dating from the nineteenth century are sealed in robust glass cases evacuated of air and filled with a chemically inert gas, typically nitrogen.
World Photography Day
And on that note, World Photography Day isn’t over in other parts of the world particularly our friends in North and South America! How about everyone try to tell at least one person about what World Photography Day means to you, and invite them to this Facebook page to celebrate with us! Lets get to 15 THOUSAND friends celebrating with us!
Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:
Wikipedia: Joseph Nicéphore Niépce…
Wikipedia: Louis Daguerre…
Worldphotoday: World Photography Day…
Daguerreotype Archive: DAGUERREOTYPE Quotes…
Other Posts on related Topics:
Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Photographic Technique: Daguerreotype…
Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Joseph Nicéphore Niépce…
Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre…