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From Daguerre to Digital 
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This book contains over 500 color photos, displaying a wide range of cameras produced from the earliest days of photography to the rise of the digital age. The informative text provides a history of cameras, organized into chapters by various camera types, including snapshot, folding, rangefinder, single lens reflex, twin lens reflex, stereo, panoramic, miniature, and spy cameras. Cameras within each chapter are arranged chronologically to show the development of the camera type.
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Kodak Folding Camera 1902

LATEST ANTIQUES ARTICLE______________________________

The First Photographic Prints
by Bob Brooke


One of the most common antique photographic items seen in antique shops and shows is the daguerreotype. Often these are small portraits of Victorian men and women set behind glass in elaborate wooden frames. These little daguerreotypes represent the beginnings of a technology that’s common today.

The daguerreotype, widely used during the 1840s and 1850s, was the first publicly available photographic process. Invented by French artist and chemist Louis Daguerre and introduced worldwide in 1839, the daguerreotype was almost completely superseded by 1860 with new, less expensive processes, such as the ambrotype, that yielded more readily viewable images.

Daguerre patented his process in England in 1839. During this time, François Arago, a member of the French House of Deputies sought to make the daguerreotype process free to the world by passing of Acts in the French Parliament. The laws provided Daguerre with a lifetime pension in exchange for giving up any profit from the patents.

The Camera Used for Daguerreotypes
In 1829, Daguerre obtained a camera obscura, meaning “dark chamber,” for his work on theatrical scene painting from the optician Chevalier. Basically, it consisted of a darkened room with a small hole or lens at one side through which an image projected onto a wall or table opposite the hole. The pinhole camera is a lensless version of it. In Daguerre’s case, he projected the image onto a plate coated with silver nitrate, onto which it left an imprint in light and shade.

Early daguerreotype cameras couldn’t be used for portraiture, as the required exposure time was too long. Fitted with slow Chevalier lenses, they projected a sharp and undistorted but dim image onto the plate. Such a lens was necessary to produce the highly detailed results needed. Using this lens and the original sensitizing method, an exposure of several minutes was necessary to photograph even a very brightly sunlit scene.

Most daguerreotypes made before 1841 were of static subjects—landscapes, buildings, monuments, statuary, and still life arrangements. Attempts at portrait photography with the Chevalier lens required the sitter to face into the sun for several minutes while trying to remain motionless and look pleasant, usually producing repulsive and unflattering results. So the first portrait daguerreotypes were postage stamp size.

Daguerreotype Improvements
Chemical improvements to Daguerre's original process greatly increased the plate’s sensitivity to light, which in turn greatly reduced the required exposure time to between 15 and 30 seconds in favorable lighting conditions

Even with fast lenses and much more sensitive plates, portraits taken under studio lighting took several seconds on the brightest of days, and on hazy or cloudy days the sitter had to remain still for much longer. The head rest became a required accessory.

Businesses producing daguerreotypes often had a daylight studio built on the roof. Daguerreotypists equipped these studios with screens and blinds to control the light, to reduce it and make it unidirectional, or diffuse it to soften harsh direct lighting.

To withstand the long exposure times, portrait sitters leaned their elbows on a support such as a posing table, the height of which could be adjusted, or else head rests were used that didn’t show in the picture, and this led to most daguerreotype portraits having stiff, lifeless poses In the case of young children, their mothers often hid in the frame, to calm them and keep them still so as to prevent blurring.

Making a Daguerreotype
To make the image, a daguerreotypist polished a sheet of silver-plated copper to a mirror finish; treated it with iodine or bromine and cholorine fumes to make the surface light-sensitive. The daguerreotypist then carried to the camera in a light-tight plate holder. Depending on the sensitization chemistry used, the brightness of the lighting, and the light-concentrating power of the lens, the required exposure time ranged from a few seconds to many minutes. After the exposure was judged to be complete, the lens was capped and the holder was again made light-tight and removed from the camera.

To make the image visible, it had to be fumed with mercury vapor. After this, the daguerreotypist removed the light sensitivity of the plate by removing the unexposed silver halide with a mild solution of sodium thiosulfate; Daguerre's initial method was to use a hot saturated solution of common salt.

The image produced on this mirror-like silver surface would appear either positive or negative, depending on the angle at which a person viewed it, how they lit it, and whether they reflected a light or dark background in the metal. The darkest areas of the image were simply bare silver; lighter areas had a microscopically fine light-scattering texture. But the surface was extremely delicate, and even the lightest wiping could permanently scuff it.

n order that the corners of the plate wouldn’t tear the buffing material when daguerreotypist polished the plate, he would bend the edges of the plate back using a patented device that could also serve as a plate holder to avoid touching the surface of the plate during processing.

Gilding, also called gold toning, was an addition to Daguerre's process introduced by Hippolyte Fizeau in 1840. It soon became part of the standard procedure. To give the steely gray image a slightly warmer tone and physically reinforce the powder-like silver particles, a gold chloride solution was pooled onto the surface and the plate was briefly heated over a flame, then drained, rinsed and dried.

Daguerreotype Cases
Even when strengthened by gilding, the image surface was still very easily marred and air would tarnish the silver, so the daguerreotypist bound the finished plate with a protective cover glass and sealed with strips of paper soaked in gum arabic. In the US and UK, a gilt brass mat called a preserver in the US and a pinchbeck in Britain, was normally used to separate the image surface from the glass. In continental Europe, a thin cardboard mat served that purpose.

Some daguerreotypists were portrait artists who also offered miniature portraits. They sometimes used black-lacquered cases ornamented with inset mother of pearl. They made the more substantial Union cases from a mixture of colored sawdust and shellac, formed in a heated mold to produce a decorative sculptural relief. The word "Union" referred to the sawdust and varnish mixture. Velvet or plush or satin lined the inside of the case cover to provide a dark surface to reflect into the plate for viewing and to protect the cover glass. Some cases, however, held two daguerreotypes opposite each other. The cased images could be set out on a table or displayed on a mantelpiece. Most cases were small and lightweight enough to easily carry in a pocket.

As daguerreotypes were on thin sheets of soft metal, they could be easily cut down to sizes and shapes suited for mounting into lockets. Other imaginative uses of daguerreotype portraits were to mount them in watch fobs and watch cases, jewel caskets and other ornate silver or gold boxes, the handles of walking sticks, and in brooches, bracelets and other jewelry. The daguerreotypist sealed the cover glass either directly to the edges of the daguerreotype or to the opening of its receptacle which had a hinge.

Viewing a Daguerreotype
Daguerreotypes were laterally reversed—mirror images—because people viewed them from the side that originally faced the camera lens. Although a daguerreotypist could attach a mirror or reflective prism in front of the lens to obtain a right-reading result, most did not.

By 1853, an estimated three million daguerreotypes were being produced in the United States annually. A flourishing market in portraiture sprang up, predominantly the work of itinerant practitioners who traveled from town to town. For the first time in history, people could obtain an exact likeness of themselves or their loved ones for a modest cost, making portrait photographs extremely popular with those of modest means. Celebrities and everyday people sought portraits and workers would save an entire day's income to have a daguerreotype made of them.

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