The Daguerreotype

Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre originally painted extravagant stage backdrops that would display different images depending on the amount and color of the light shown upon it. Daguerre and his associate Bouton often utilized the camera obscura in order to illustrate their impressive sets. His frequent use of the primitive camera led Daguerre into the world of photography. After learning that Joseph Niépce was also trying to reach the same conclusion of a fixable image taking from a camera, Daguerre opened the door of communication. He sent Niépce a "smoke drawing" and was giving a lightly etched plate in return, which, "could in no way compromise the secret of [his] discovery." Eventually the two met in 1827 and Niépce was so amazed by Daguerre's sets that he told his son that they made him want to walk down the fabricated streets and climb the mountain in the background. Although Niépce died before the product was finished, Daguerre found a great deal of success from the partnership. He used Niépce invention of copper plates and altered it slightly to produce his own Daguerreotype in which he treated silver plated copper slides with iodine to make them light sensitive. He this exposed them in mercury vapor in order to produce the replicated image. In 1835 the Journal de artistes prematurely sated that Daguerre could successfully capture a picture of light and shade by using the camera obscura and his pre-prepared slide. In reality this discovery did not happen until two years later when Daguerre captured an image of the corner of his studio. Although his original intention was to keep his invention private, it was released to the French government, and then the public to the sound of a 6000-franc annuity. Daguerre then wrote a 79-page pamphlet describing in vivid detail how to produce the camera and its images. The Daguerreotype quickly spread through Europe and the United States and became the standard instrument for capturing landscapes and architecture. However, the Daguerreotype camera lacked the ability to take the beloved portrait and three main changes where made. First an improved lens replaced Daguerre's meniscus. Secondly, recoating the iodized surface with other halides enhanced the light sensitivity of the plate. Lastly the tones were altered by gilding the plate. Soon after these changes were made, the Daguerreotype sparked a surge in the number of portraits taken, just as it had for landscapes.
lincoln-kaplan-daguerreotype.jpg
courtesy of: http://www.doobybrain.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/lincoln-kaplan-daguerreotype.jpg



79.1.jpg
courtesy of: http://www.loc.gov/preserv/bachbase/images/79.1.jpg

Early after the Daguerreotype was made public there was a swell in architectural and landscape photography. The simple Daguerreotype could capture pristine images when the subject was incapable of movement or character, but the camera's inability to capture vivid portraits disappointed many.