Striking Daguerreotype Portrait
Daguerreotypes continue to amaze me. A well made daguerreotype reveals more detail and subtlety than the most modern films. A reason for this, is the daguerreotype plate is grain-less, a quality no other photographic process possesses.
Viewing a daguerreotype to its best advantage takes a certain amount of experience. The image needs to be held "just right" to catch the light in the correct way. Ironically the modern digital scanner may be the best instrument for capturing a daguerreotype's beauty. This image was scanned with a mid-quality scanner and further manipulated by reducing its size, and using compression for fast loading over the Web. Although this scan is inferior to the original, it is acceptable, and good results are easier to achieve than with either a digital or silver film camera.
As to the image, I see a sadness in the woman's features. Her eyes are lowered, not looking into the camera, as if viewing a private moment. Her mouth, which otherwise may seem relaxed, in conjunction with her eyes seems sad. That is my impression. I could most certainly be wrong about this, and I would like to be.
Most likely this photograph dates to the 1850s. It is an example of excellent daguerreotype technique. Daguerreotype photography was very difficult to master. It took talent and experience to produce an image with good tonal separation. This woman's clothing was a good test of the photographer's skills. The photographer captured the richness of her black clothing, yet her white bow is not solarised (over exposed), and her skin tone has a realistic value. There is wonderful subtle detail in the woman's veil.
This is a sixth-plate size image.
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This page was updated August 20, 2001