Some daguerreotypes

I picked up a few daguerreotypes in reasonable condition and at a decent price ($20-$25 each) at an antique store the other day. Both cases had broken hinge, but were otherwise complete.

The old man has some coloring added to his cheeks – something I have seen before, especially with later tintypes – but the pink and purple coloring on the little girl’s necklace was something I’ve never seen. The pink velvet on the case also compliments the color added to the photograph.

I’ve discovered that it is incredibly difficult to take a cell-phone photograph of a glass image, because I can’t avoid getting a reflection of my phone in the picture.

There is a clear trend over time in how photographs were presented. In the 1840s and 1850s, when photography was new, images were expensive, but so was the presentation: a case of wood and leather, a golden tin frame a piece of black silk behind the glass. Then, tintypes in the 1870s got rid of the display case. On the one hand, cases were no longer needed, since an image on tin needed less protection than an image on glass. But also, the photograph was gradually losing its formality. Tintypes still had a frame around the image, but it was made of paper instead of metal. By the turn of the century, photograph were on paper, and started to have no frame at all.

A parallel can be found in the transformation of television sets in the 20th century.  You might remember the old t.v.’s that were as much a piece of furniture as they were a screen: a nicely finished wooden box that could handle a good thwaack! on the top (to reset its brains, of course). Gradually, the size of the box decreased, wood was replaced by metal.  By the 1990s, televisions became flatscreens, not boxes. With projectors, (my analogy’s equivalent of digital photographs) television screens could disappear entirely.

Unlike some paper photographs, these dauguerreotypes probably come with no names scribbled on the back. (perhaps there is a name on the back, but I don’t want to open crack open the frame and ruin the image or the mystery.

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