Friday, November 18, 2011

Happy Birthday, Louis Daguerre!

I just saw on Google's homepage that today is Louis Daguerre's birthday. If he was still living he would be 224 years old today and I'm sure sitting still for one of his own portraits would be no problem. Hah!



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Daguerre is credited with creating the first type of commercially successful process in photography which was appropriately named... wait for it... the daguerreotype process! With all of the chemicals involved, making (or explaining how to make) a daguerreotype can be really difficult but very simply, Daguerreotypes are thin sheets of silver or silver coated copper that fit into specially made "box" cameras. They are exposed to light for a predetermined amount of time which burns an image onto the plate and then they're treated with fixing chemicals to make them no longer sensitive to light. The images were then sealed behind glass and placed in leather cases to protect them. Simple enough, huh?



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This is my first daguerreotype which I found at an antique store in Mt Pleasant.



I first learned about daguerreotypes during a 'daguerreotype vs tintype' project in college and was immediately obsessed with finding one. I searching online and at antique stores and eventually found two that were amazing!! Because daguerreotypes are so sensitive to light, I can't keep them out on display as much as I'd like. If left open, they will eventually fade away but their cases are so pretty that I still leave them out on the shelf.



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This is my favorite of the two but this one has faded more than the other so I really have to keep it out of the light.



Even though some of you may have never heard of daguerreotypes before this, I'm sure you would know a couple if you saw them. There are famous portraits of Edgar Allen Poe, abolitionist John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, Indian Chiefs and other recognizable people.

Thank you for your contribution to photography and overall awesomeness, Louis Daguerre. Happy Birthday!

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