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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

John Brown, the Abolitionist?

This image is an ambrotype, which was a photographic process that became popular around 1850. It was much less expensive than the daguerreotype and very quickly replaced it. With this process, the image was made in the camera on a glass plate and then partially developed. When the glass negative is placed against a dark background it appears to be a positive, due to the way light reflects off of the silver salts.

Close inspection of ambrotypes reveal that they are different in appearance than more modern processes, but they don't have that magical quality of a daguerreotype.

The person I purchased this image from stated that the person he had bought it from thought it is an early image of John Brown, the famous abolitionist. There is no evidence that this is true, but I have closely examined known images of John Brown, taken later in his life, and there is a very striking similarity of his features and this ambrotype.

I'd be very interested in hearing from people who are more familiar with John Brown and his images and their thoughts about this image.

4 Comments:

Blogger Jim said...

Interesting old images! I stumbled on this website you might be interested in:

http://www.tcf.ua.edu/classes/Jbutler/T112/EdisonIllustrations.htm

4:24 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Here's the link again inside some html:

http://www.tcf.ua.edu/classes/Jbutler/T112/EdisonIllustrations.htm

4:26 PM  
Blogger LD said...

While it is a nice image from the past and the man bears some resemblance to the abolitionist John Brown, it is not him. I am a biographer and am familiar with images of Brown that have survived, and the one you have is definitely not Brown--especially the hair and ears. Also the clothes are too fancy for him. He dressed very plainly and even in his day his clothes seemed archaic. By the way, the foremost authority on this subject is Jean Libby, a scholar in Palo Alto, Calif. She has done an extensive study of Brown's daguerreotypes (no ambrotypes).

Best wishes

Louis DeCaro Jr.

12:53 AM  
Blogger LD said...

While it is a nice image from the past and the man bears some resemblance to the abolitionist John Brown, it is not him. I am a biographer and am familiar with images of Brown that have survived, and the one you have is definitely not Brown--especially the hair and ears. Also the clothes are too fancy for him. He dressed very plainly and even in his day his clothes seemed archaic. By the way, the foremost authority on this subject is Jean Libby, a scholar in Palo Alto, Calif. She has done an extensive study of Brown's daguerreotypes (no ambrotypes).

Best wishes

Louis DeCaro Jr.

12:53 AM  

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