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Friday, August 18, 2006

A Handsome Couple, circa 1850

I'm exploring how to emulate early photographic processes using digital cameras and Photoshop. One of the first was invented in France by M. Daguerre around 1839. It involved polishing a silver coated copper plate to a mirror finish and making the plate light sensitive. After a exposure of many seconds to minutes in length, the image was "developed" using Mercury vapors. Each daguerreotype is a unique record. Daguerreotypes were the first wide spread photographic process and was embraced in the United States from the early 1840's through the late 1850's.
This couple was captured over 150 years ago and this is probably the only photograph of them that was ever made. Their names are lost to time. I love the bemused looks on their faces, especially the wife. The depth of the image in the original is amazing. It is impossible to replicate this in any other process.
Daguerreotypes are fragile. A simple touch to the plate can damage or ruin the image. All are covered in glass, but to truely appreciate the image etched in the plate, it has to be removed from it's frame by someone that knows what they are doing. This image is of the raw plate after I removed it to clean the cover glass and remove any loose dust that was on the plate itself.
Considering the lenses of the time, and that the exposure had to be many seconds in length, it is amazing how sharp the focus is and how much detail is visible. In fact, most people sitting for the daguerreotypist were braced to iron stands to restrict their movement. This is why many images from this time period show the sitter with strained looks on their faces. This couple looks very relaxed and at ease. A final touch was the blush of pink that was later added to their cheeks.
Probably a wooden box camera, 30 - 60 second exposure, The ISO was most likely 4 or 5! Levels adjusted and sharpened in Photoshop to bring up the full detail. Even so, this copy doesn't do the original justice.


Blogger CameraDawktor said...

that is a great photo!

10:55 AM  

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