Archive for the ‘daguerreotypes’ Category

Mentioned in today’s teleseminar

Here are a few of the links I mentioned in today’s teleseminar that focused on daguerreotypes:

Free photo editing on  I love this site!  Try it and you’ll see why.

Daguerreotype restoration professional Casey Waters.  Take a look at his website to see his work.

Storage boxes for daguerreotypes on Hollinger Corp.

Find professional photo conservators at the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works, Inc.

Cased Images

At almost every lecture, someone approaches me with a question about a small box or book-like
item they found in with the family photographs.

If you have one or two in your collection, treat them with care and respect. They are the earliest types of
photographs and provide you with a glimpse into life in the mid-nineteenth century.

Typically three types of images were placed in cases: daguerrotypes, ambrotypes and tintypes.

A daguerreotype is a sheet of polished silver covered in light-sensitive chemicals and exposed to light. The resulting portraits were initially crude and miraculous. Never before had individuals seen such a clear and unflattering portrait of themselves. The final product was a realistic portrait of an individual that could be obtained in a short period of time.

These images were one of kind. The technology did not exist to make multiple copies at the same time.

Popular in the mid-1850s, they consist of a piece of glass coated with a photo chemical known as collodion, a mixture of gun cotton and ether. The end result is a negative image until backed with a dark piece of cloth or fabric. The image is then viewed as a positive.

Just like the daguerreotype, ambrotypes were a one of a kind image.

Tintypes or Ferrotypes have a fascinating history. It was the first photographic process invented in the United States and its longevity is only surpassed by the paper print.

A tintype resembles a daguerreotype only because it is an image on metal.  Unlike the daguerreotype and ambrotype, multiple tintypes could be made at a sitting. A tintype was inexpensive to produce, and it took less than a minute to walk out of a photographer’s studio with one in hand.

My Preserving Your Family Photographs book explains how to identify each of these forms of cased images along with care instructions.  

If you think you may be in possession of a cased image and would like some help identifying it, please contact me at

1835 Photograph on Display

I’ve repeatedly written that photography begins in 1839 with Louis Mande Daguerre’s shiny metal photograph called the daguerreotype and William Fox Talbot’s paper images. However, that isn’t one hundred percent true. These two men produced commercially successful processes, but before that there were men who experimented with chemicals, light and materials to produce images. The Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs Gallery at 962 Park Ave., in New York has a new show. Silver Anniversary: 25 Photographs, 1835-1914 features one of the earliest paper photographs, “Tripod in the Cloisters of Lacock Abbey” by Talbot. It’s a very delicate image and usually is in storage. If you’d like to see it visit the Kraus Gallery before November 20th.

Along with the news I usually feature in this space, I’ll introduce some of the earliest photographic inventions and inventors. Stay tuned!

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Queries and Answers: Ambrotype Marks

Merry wrote in with a question about marks on an ambrotype:
I’m doing some photo detective work of my own–if I have a cased, sealed ambrotype with a stamped mat (E.R. Perkins), can I assume that the photographer was probably the person stamped on the mat? That might help me narrow down where the picture was taken, right?

Congratulations on researching your photos! If you have a cased image such as an ambrotype with a stamped mat you’re right to assume that identifies the photographer. An excellent resource on photographers in the daguerreotype era is John Craig’s Daguerreian Register. There is an Elijah R. Perkins listed who worked as an ambrotypist from 1856 to 1860 in Newburyport, Massachusetts. He was in Salem, Massachusetts in 1859.

Hope this is a match!

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Weekend at the Museum: Click! Photography Changes Everything

Two years ago I was asked to contribute to this Smithsonian Photo Initiative I was asked to find a photograph in the Smithsonian’s collection and write about it. I selected this image of Dorothy Catherine Draper. It’s actually a copy of the daguerreotype of her. The original has deteriorated. I love this photo! It shows a young Draper in 1830s clothing. Her brother Daniel took in June of 1839.

If you want contribute to Click!, you can. It’s now open to visitors. Do you have a story to share?

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