History of Photography



Introduction
History of Photography

A World History of Photography

The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991

Photographers' Dictionary










 

 

"A WORLD HISTORY OF PHOTOGRAPHY"

   

 

contents

 

1.  THE EARLY YEARS: TECHNOLOGY, VISION, USERS 1839-1875

 

2.  A PLENITUDE OF PORTRAITS 1839-1890

 

3.  DOCUMENTATION: LANDSCAPE AND ARCHITECTURE 1839-1890

 

4.  DOCUMENTATION OBJECTS AND EVENTS 1839-1890

 

5.  PHOTOGRAPHY AND ART: THE FIRST PHASE 1839-1890

 

6.  NEW TECHNOLOGY, NEW VISION, NEW USERS 1875-1925

 

7.  ART PHOTOGRAPHY ANOTHER ASPECT 1890-1920

 

8.  DOCUMENTATION: THE SOCIAL SCENE to 1946

 

9.  ART, PHOTOGRAPHY, AND MODERNISM 1920-1945

 

10.WORDS AND PICTURES: PHOTOGRAPHS IN PRINT MEDIA 1920-1980

 

11.PHOTOGRAPHY SINCE 1950: THE STRAIGHT IMAGE

 

12.PHOTOGRAPHY SINCE 1950: MANIPULATIONS AND COLOR

 



Chapter 2

 

 

ANTOINE FRANCOIS CLAUDET
D. F. MILLET
HERMANN GUNTHER BIOW
CARL FERDINAND STELZNER
GUSTAV OEHME
JOHN WILLIAM DRAPER
JOHN PLUMBE
FRANCOIS D'AVIGNON
ALBERT SANDS SOUTHWORTH and JOSIAH JOHNSON HAWES
THOMAS EASTERLY
HENRY COLLEN
WILLIAM HENRY FOX TALBOT
DAVID OCTAVIUS HILL and ROBERT ADAMSON

 

 




A PLENITUDE OF PORTRAITS

 

1839-1890


 

 

From that moment onwards, our loathsome society rushed, like Narcissus, to contemplate its trivial image on a metallic plate. A form of lunacy, an extraordinary fanaticism took hold of these new sun-worshippers.

Charles Baudelaire, 1859
 

It is required of and should be the aim of the artist photographer to produce in the likeness the best possible character and finest expression of which that face and figure could ever have been capable. But in the result there is to be no departure from truth in the delineation and representation of beauty, and expression, and character.

Albert Sands Southworth, 1871

 

 

 

VIRTUALLY FROM ITS INCEPTION, photography has been involved with portraiture, continuing in a new medium the impulse to represent human form that goes back to the dawn of art. The daguerreotype and negative-positive technologies provided the basis for flourishing commercial enterprises that satisfied the needs for public and private likenesses, while individuals who wished to express them-selves personally through portraiture were able to do so using the calotype and collodion processes. Approaches to camera likenesses, whether made for amateur or commercial purposes, ranged from documentary to artistic, from "materialistic" to "atmospheric," but whatever their under-lying aesthetic mode, photographic portraits reflected from their origin the conviction that an individual's personality, intellect, and character can be revealed through the depiction of facial configuration and expression.

Indeed, from the Renaissance on, portraits have been most esteemed when they portrayed not only the sitter's physical appearance but inner character as well. Toward the end of the 18th century, the concept that pose, gesture, and expression should reveal the inner person became codified in a number of treatises that exhorted the portraitist to rise above merely mechanical graphic representation of the human features. The most significant expression of this idea was contained in the 1789 publication Essays on Physiognomy by Johann Kaspar Lavater, a work that pro-posed that painters develop the "talent of discovering the interior of Man by his exterior—of perceiving by certain natural signs, what does not immediately attract the senses." These ideas still were current when the early promoters of photography were endeavoring to provide quickly made and inexpensive likenesses, and they have continued to inform serious portrait photography on into the 20th century.


28. EDWARD GREENE MALBONE. Eben Farley. 1807.
Miniature on ivory. Worcester Art Museum,
Worcester, Mass.

Before photography was invented, however, artists already had devised methods to respond to the demand for portraits from a new clientele emerging as a result of the rise of bourgeois societies in England, France, Holland, and America from the 17th century on. Earlier, the painted portrait had been largely the privilege of aristocrats and the very wealthy, but simplifications in terms of what was included in the painting, and transformations in size and naterials enabled merchants and farming gentry in the 18th and early 19th centuries to contemplate having portraits made of themselves and their families. By the mid-i9th century, in addition to the large, officially sanctioned portraits of royalty and public figures that still were being commissioned, the miniature, the silhouette, the physionotrace, the camera lucida drawing, and finally the photo-graph had arrived to accommodate the needs of new patrons for likenesses. Of these, the miniature was most like the traditional large-scale portrait. Although small, it was painted in full color, often on an ivory surface, and required imaginative skill and a delicate touch to evoke the character of the sitter. Regarded as precious keepsakes, miniatures such as the American example shown—a portrait of Eben Farley by Edward Greene Malbone (pi. no. 28)—usually were enclosed in elegant cases or inserted in lockets, the manner in which the daguerreotype portrait would be presented also. The silhouette, on the other hand, might be considered the poor man's miniature, though it was not always small and often it appealed to those who could also afford a painted likeness. Traced from a cast shadow and inked in, or cut freehand from black paper, which then was mounted on a lighter ground, the silhouette showed only the profile, which would seem to leave little room for disclosing expression. Nevertheless, the conviction that profiles were as strong a key to character as other views impelled Lavater to include an illustration of a silhouetting device (pi. no. 29) in his work on physiognomy.

Both miniature and silhouette were unique objects— one-of-a-kind images. For duplicates of the same likeness, whether for personal use or in conjunction with a printed text, different systems were required—among them one made possible by a device called the physionotracc. In-vented in France in 1786 by Gilles Louis Chretien, it consisted of a pointer attached by a series of levers to a pencil, by means of which the operator could trace on paper a profile cast onto glass. A pantograph reduced and transferred the image to a copper plate, which, when engraved and inked, would permit the printing of an edition.4 From Paris, the physionotracc was introduced to other cities in Europe and taken to the United States by a French emigre, Charles Fevret de Saint-Memin, who practiced the technique in the major New World centers between 1793 and 1844. Numerous figures in the arts, sciences, and public life, among them Thomas Jefferson (pi. no. 30), sat for the four minutes required to make a portrait tracing by physionotracc.
 


29. JOHANN KASPAR LAVATER. Silhouette Machine, c. 1780.
Engraving from Essays on Physiognomy. Gemsheim Collection,
Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin


30. Charles Fevret de Saint-Memin. Thomas Jefferson, 1804.
Worcester Art Museum.


Daguerreotype Portraits

That the photograph might provide a more efficient method than either physionotrace or silhouette to produce faithful likenesses seems obvious today, but when first announced, neither Daguerre's nor Talbot's process was capable of being used to make portraits. In 1839, sittings would have required about 15 minutes of rigid stillness in blazing sunshine owing to the primitive nature of the lenses used and the insufficient sensitivity to light of the chemically treated plates and paper. Because the highly detailed daguerreotype was considered by many the more attractive of the two processes and, in addition, was unrestricted in many localities, individuals in Europe and the United States scrambled to find the improvements that would make commercial daguerreotype portraits possible. They were aided in their purpose by the general efforts in progress to improve the process for all kinds of documentation.

Among the means used to accomplish this goal were the reduction of plate size, the improvement of lenses, the use of mirrors to reverse the plate's laterally inverted image back to normal, the shortening of exposure times by the addition of chemical accelerants in the sensitizing process, and the toning of the plate. Experimentation along these lines took place wherever daguerreotypes were made—in France, the Germanspeaking countries, and the United States—even in England where there was less commercial daguerreotyping activity owing to patent restrictions.

The earliest improvements were made to cameras and lenses. Daguerre's cumbersome experimental camera was redesigned, and lighter models, accommodating smaller plates, were manufactured in France by both amateurs and optical-instrument makers, among them Alphonse Giroux, a relative of Daguerre's wife who became the first commercial producer of the daguerreotype camera. These changes made it possible to carry the equipment to the countryside or abroad and even to make likenesses, provided the sitter did not object to holding absolutely still for two minutes. But commercial portraiture could not be contemplated until after chemical procedures were improved and a faster portrait lens, designed by Viennese scientist Josef Max Petzval to admit more than 20 times as much light, was introduced in 1840 by his compatriot Peter Friedrich Voigtlander.

The first efforts to make the silver surface more receptive to light resulted from experiments conducted late in 1840 by English science lecturer John Frederick Goddard. By fuming the plate in other chemicals in addition to mercury vapor, he decreased exposure time considerably; plates sensitized in this manner and used in conjunction with the Petzval lens required exposures of only five to eilght seconds. Alongside these developments, a method of gilding the exposed and developed plate in a solution of gold chloride—the invention of Hippolyte Fizeau in 1840—made the image more visible and less susceptible to destruction, and prepared the daguerreotype for its first paying customers.

With the stage set for the business of making portraits by camera, one might ask where the photographers would be found. As is often true when older professions seem on the verge of being overtaken by new technologies, members drift for hurry) from allied fields into the new one. A large number of miniature and landscape painters, in France especially, realized during the 1840s that their experiences as craftsmen might fit them for making camera portraits (and other documents). French author Charles Baudelaire's contention that the photographic industry had become "the refuge of failed painters with too little talent" may have been too harsh, but it is true that unemployed and poorly paid miniaturists, engravers, and draftsmen turned to portrait photography for the livelihood it seemed to promise. Watchmakers, opticians, tinkers, and other artisans also were intrigued by the new technology and the chance it offered to improve their material well-being.

In England and the United States, portraiture some-times attracted businessmen who hired artists and others to make exposures and process plates. Antoine Francois Claudet, a French emigre residing in London, had been in the sheet glass business before opening a daguerreotype studio. Eminently successful as a portraitist, Claudet also demonstrated a broad interest in photography in general— in technical problems, paper processes, and aesthetic matters. In spite of his belief that the process was so difficult that "failure was the rule and success the exception," the portraits made in his studio are exceptional in their fine craftsmanship and in the taste with which groups of figures were posed, arranged, and lighted (pi. no. 31).

Richard Beard, partner in a coal firm who had bought a patent from Daguerre's agent in 1841 to sell the rights in England, Wales, and the colonies, started his portrait stu-dio with the idea that the new American Wolcott camera, in which he held an interest, would insure the financial prospects of daguerreotype portraiture. In addition to selling licenses to others, Beard eventually owned three establishments in London, with daguerreotypists hired to operate the cameras, as seen in the image of Jabez Hogg (pi. no. 32) making an exposure in Beard's studio (Hogg, however, is believed to have been an associate rather than a paid employee). Since this image may be the earliest representation of the interior of a portrait studio showing a photographer at work, it affords an opportunity to examine the equipment and facilities in use in the opening years of portraiture. A tripod-actually a stand with a rotating plate—supports a simple camera without bellows. It is positioned in front of a backdrop painted in rococo style, against which female figures probably were posed. The stiffly upright sitter—in this case a Mr. Johnson—is clamped into a head-brace, which universally was used to insure steadiness. He clutches the arm of the chair with one hand and makes a fist with the other so that his fingers will not flutter. After being posed, the sitter remains in the same position for longer than just the time it takes to make an exposure, because the operator must first obtain the sensitized plate from the darkroom (or if working alone, prepare it), remove the focusing glass of the camera, and insert the plate into the frame before beginning the exposure. Hogg is shown riming the exposure with a pocket watch by experience while holding the cap he has removed from the lens, but in the course of regular business this operation was ordinarily left to lowly helpers. In all, the posing process was ncrve-wracking and lengthy, and if the sitter wished to have more than one portrait made the operator had to repeat the entire procedure, unless two cameras were in use simultaneously—a rare occurrence except in the most fashionable studios. No wonder so many of the sitters in daguerreotype portraits seem inordinately solemn and unbending. Following the exposure, the plate, with no image yet visible, would have been removed from the camera and taken to the darkroom to develop by naming in mercury vapor. By 1842/43, when this image was made, darkroom is believed to have been an associate rather than a paid employee.

31. ANTOINE FRANCOIS CLAUDET. The Geography Lesson, c. 1850. Daguerreotype.
Gernsheim Collection, Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin.

32.Unknown PHOTOGRAPHER. Jabez Hogg Making a Portrait in Richard Beard's Studio, 1843.
Daguerreotype. Collection Bokelberg, Hamburg.

Since this image may be the earliest representation of the interior of a portrait studio showing a photographer at work, it affords an opportunity to examine the equipment and facilities in use in the opening years of portraiture. A tripod—actually a stand with a rotating plate—supports a simple camera without bellows. It is positioned in front of a backdrop painted in rococo style, against which female figures probably were posed. The stiffly upright sitter—in this case a Mr. Johnson7—is clamped into a head-brace, which universally was used to insure steadiness. He clutches the arm of the chair with one hand and makes a fist with the other so that his fingers will not flutter. After being posed, the sitter remains in the same position for longer than just the time it takes to make an exposure, because the operator must first obtain the sensitized plate from the darkroom (or if working alone, prepare it), remove the focusing glass of the camera, and insert the plate into the frame before beginning the exposure. Hogg is shown timing the exposure with a pocket watch by experience while holding the cap he has removed from the lens, but in the course of regular business this operation was ordinarily left to lowly helpers. In all, the posing process was nerve-wracking and lengthy, and if the sitter wished to have more than one portrait made the operator had to repeat the entire procedure, unless two cameras were in use simultaneously—a rare occurrence except in the most fashionable studios. No wonder so many of the sitters in daguerreotype portraits seem inordinately solemn and unbending. Following the exposure, the plate, with no image yet visible, would have been removed from the camera and taken to the darkroom to develop by fuming in mercury vapor. By 1842/43, when this image was made, darkroom operations already were performed under red safelight, an invention Claudct devised to facilitate development. The plate then would have been fixed in hypo and washed in chloride of gold. Because the daguerreotype's principal drawback was thought to be its "ghastly appearance... like a person seen by moonlight, or reflected in water," the portrait would have been hand-colored by a method Beard patented in 1842, but such coloring was practiced almost universally in all the better studios. Although gold toning had made the daguerreotype less susceptible to oxidation, its delicate pigmented surface required protection and was sheathed in a metal mat, covered with glass, and enclosed in a case (pi. no. 33), lending the final assemblage the appearance of the more expensive painted miniatures. Daguerreotype portraits were made in a variety of sizes, all derived from the standard "whole plate," which measured 61/2 x 81/2 inches. The most common portrait sizes were "quarter plate," 31/4 x 41/4 inches—the size of the Hogg image—and "sixth plate," 23/4 x 31/4 inches.

 


33. Daguerreotype case, frame, and matte.
International Museum of Photography at George
Eastman House, Rochester, N.Y.

 

Unfortunately, the interior shown in the Hogg portrait does not reveal the method of lighting the subject, for illumination was a most important factor in the success of the portrait. Early studios usually were situated on the roofs of buildings where sunlight was unobstructed. On clear days, exposures might be made out-of-doors, al-though not ordinarily in direct sunlight because of the strongly cast shadows, while interior rooms somewhat resembled greenhouses with banks of windows, adjustable shades, and, occasionally, arrangements of blue glass to soften the light and keep the sitter from squinting in the glare.

With the introduction of the Petzval portrait lens and the knowledge of the accelerating action of a combination of chemicals in sensitizing the plate, portrait dagucrrcotyping began to expand throughout Europe. Its popularity in France was immediate. In 1847 some thousand portraits were exhibited in Paris alone, and dagucrrcorypists were active in many provincial cities as well. A hand-tinted daguerreotype of a family group, made in Paris in the 1850s, is typical of the general level and style of commercial portraiture in that it conveys the manner in which the figures were disposed in the space and the handling of lighting directed to focus the eye both on the familial relationship and on material facts (pi. no. 34) .

In the German-speaking cities of Berlin, Hamburg, Dresden, Vienna, and Bern, the volume of daguerreotype portraiture was smaller than that produced in France but seems otherwise comparable in style and craftsmanship. Although artists who took up daguerrcotyping occasionally were denounced as "paintsputterers" who had turned themselves into artistic geniuses with the help of sun¬light,9 they produced skillfully realized and authoritative images, among them Alexander von Humboldt (pi. no. 35) by Hermann Gunther Biow and Mother Albers (pi. no. 36) by Carl Ferdinand Stelzncr, a miniature painter of repute who for a brief period was associated with Biow in a Hamburg daguerreotype studio. Another example, an 1845 portrait of three young girls (pi. no. 37) by Berlin dagucrreotypist Gustav Oehme, displays a feeling for grace and symmetry in the grouping of the figures and an unusual sense of presence in the direct level gaze of the three youngsters. The Dresden photographer Hermann Krone was acclaimed not only for excellent portrait daguerreotypes but for his topographical views, nude studies, and still lifes (see Chapters 3 and 5); like a number of serious daguerreotypists of this era, he was interested in the widest application of the medium and in its potential for both art and documentation.

The taking of likenesses by daguerreotype spread more slowly through the rest of Europe during the 1840s and '50s. Investigations have turned up a greater amount of activity than once was thought to exist, but, other than in the larger cities, portrait work in Central Europe was done mainly by itinerants. However, much of that was lost in the nationalistic and revolutionary turmoils of the 19th century. In a number of countries, the daguerreotype and, later, photography on paper and glass came to be considered apt tools for ethnic self-realization. One example entitled A Magyar Fold es Nepei (The Land of Hungary and Its People), published in 1846/47, was illustrated with lithographs based on daguerreotypes thought to have been made by Janos Varsanyi, and included ethnographic portraits as well as the expected images of landscape and monuments.

Farther east, the progress of both daguerreotype and calotype in France and England was monitored in Russia by the Petersburg Academy of Sciences, and in 1840 Aleksei Grevkov, who tried to work with the less costly metals of copper and brass for the sensitized plate, opened the first daguerreotype studio in Moscow. Sergei Levitskii, who started a portrait studio in Petersburg in 1849 following a period of practice in Italy and study in Paris, experimented with the electroplating of daguerreotypes and with calotype procedures before turning to collodion photography; he sought also to combine electric and natural light in order to shorten the lengthy exposure times made necessary by the long Russian winters. In general, however, the profes-sion of portrait photography in all of these localities, whether practiced for commercial or artistic purposes, was not able to expand until about 40 years after its debut, an understandable state of affairs when one realizes that in the 1840s in Belgrade, for instance, a daguerreotype cost as much as a month of daily dinners in the finest restaurant.
 

34. D. F. MILLET. Couple and Child, 1854-59. Daguerreotype.
Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.

35. HERMANN GUNTHER BIOW. Alexander von Humboldt, Berlin, 1847. Daguerreotype.
Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg.

36. CARL FERDINAND STELZNER. Mother Albers, The Family Vegetable Woman, 1840s. Daguerreotype.
Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg; Staatliche Landesbildstelle, Hamburg.

37. GUSTAV OEHME. Three Young Girls, c. 184s.
Daguerreotype. Collection Bokelberg, Hamburg.


Daguerreotype Portraiture in America

Daguerreotype portraiture was made to order for the United States, where it reached a pinnacle of success during the 20 years that followed its introduction into the country. In the conjunction of uncanny detail, artless yet intense expression, and naive pose, Americans recognized a mirror of the national ethos that esteemed unvarnished truth and distrusted elegance and ostentation. The power of "heaven's broad and simple sunshine" to bring out "the secret character with a truth that no painter would ever venture upon," which Nathaniel Hawthorne praised in The House of the Seven Gables, helped propel the silver camera likeness into an instrument through which the nation might recognize its best instincts. Furthermore, the cohesive bodies of work produced to distill this message were the products of commercial studios, a fact that accorded with the native respect for entrepreneurial initiative.

Attempts to make daguerreotype portraits preoccupied Americans from the start. Shortly after instruction manuals arrived from England in September, 1839, Samuel F. B. Morse, his colleague John William Draper, Professor of Chemistry at New York University, Henry Fitz in Boston, and Robert Cornelius in Philadelphia managed to overcome the estimated 10-20 minute exposure time and produce likenesses—some with eyes closed against the glaring sunlight—by reducing the size of the plate and whitening the sitter's face. The exposure time for Draper's well-known 1840 portrait of his sister, Dorothy Catherine (pl.. no. 38) (sent by the chemist to John Herschel as a token of esteem for the English scientist's contributions to photography), was 65 seconds, still too long for commercial portraiture, and an image produced around the same time by Henry Fitz, Jr., a telescope maker, showed the face with eyes closed on a plate the size of a large postage stamp.

Europeans had to wait until 1841 to sit before the studio daguerreotype camera, but in America the first commercial enterprises were opened in New York City by Alexander S. Wolcott and John Johnson and in Philadelphia by Cornelius in the spring of 1840. Working with Fitz, Wolcott and Johnson patented a camera of their own design (mentioned previously in connection with Beard) and installed an ingenious plate glass mirror arrangement in their studio window that increased illumination on the sitter, softening the glare with a baffle of glass bottles filled with a blue liquid. Although their mirror camera was eventually discarded, improvements in daguerreotype technology in the United States were rapid. The finest lenses and plates continued to be imported, but, during the 1840s optical systems and cameras as well as plates and chemicals also were manufactured locally, resulting in less expensive products and in the setting-up of photographic supply houses, the forerunners of the giant companies of today. Techniques for harnessing the buffing and polishing machinery to steam power and for creating a rational assembly line—the so-called German system—in manufacturing and studio processing procedures soon followed.

The absolute frontality in Draper's portrait of Catherlishmints in 14 cities, is typical of this style. As in the Draper image, the portrait of Mrs. Francis Luqueer (pi. no. 39), taken in one of the Plumbe studios, fills the space frontally and centrally, with no attempt at artistic pose, dramatic lighting, or grandiloquent props such as the drapery swags and statuary found in European daguerreotype portraits. This style must have appealed to Americans in part because of its similarity to the solemn portraits by native limners, exemplified in the likeness of Mrs. John Vincent Storm (pi. no. 40) by Ammi Phillips, made just a few years earlier. Nor was the sober approach limited to ordinary folk; the same directness and lack of artifice is seen in an 1847 daguerreotype, by an unknown maker, of the future abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass (pi. no. 41) . In this work, the absence of artistic pretension is modine, the result of his scientific intent, is nevertheless emblematic of the approach taken by a great many early daguerreotypists in America. The work of John Plumbe, an enterprising businessman out to make a success of selling equipment, supplies, and lessons as well as inexpensive likenesses, who opened a studio in Boston in 1841 and by the mid-'40s was the owner of a chain of portrait establishmints in 14 cities, is typical of this style. As in the Draper image, the portrait of Mrs. Francis Luqueer (pi. no. 39), taken in one of the Plumbe studios, fills the space frontally and centrally, with no attempt at artistic pose, dramatic lighting, or grandiloquent props such as the drapery swags and statuary found in European daguerreotype portraits. This style must have appealed to Americans in part because of its similarity to the solemn portraits by native limners, exemplified in the likeness of Mrs. John Vincent Storm (pi. no. 40) by Ammi Phillips, made just a few years earlier. Nor was the sober approach limited to ordinary folk; the same directness and lack of artifice is seen in an 1847 daguerreotype, by an unknown maker, of the future abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass (pi. no. 41) . In this work, the absence of artistic pretension is moderated by the sense of powerful psychological projection, by the suggestion of a distinctive presence.

38. JOHN WILLIAM DRAPER. Dorothy Catherine Draper, 1840. Original ruined. Collotype from a daguerreotype,
 Chemical Museum, Columbia University, New York.

39. JOHN PLUMBE. Mrs. Francis Luqueer, n.d.
 Daguerreotype.
New-York Historical Society, New York.

40. AMMI PHILLIPS. Mrs. John Vincent Storm, c. 1835-40.
Oil on canvas. Brooklyn Museum; gift of Mrs. Waido Hutchu

41. UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER. Frederick Douglass, 1847. Daguerreotype.
Collection William Rubcl; National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

The successes of the portrait establishments in New York and Washington started by Mathew Brady (see Profile, Chapter 4) arc now legendary (pi. no. 42). After taking lessons in the daguerreotype process from Morse, this former manufacturer of cases for jewelry and daguerreotypes opened his first "Dagucrrcan Miniature Gallery" on lower Broadway in 1844. His stated aim, ""to vindicate true art" by producing better portraits at higher prices than the numerous competitors who were to be found in the same part of the city, was realized in part as a result of the patronage of Tammany Hall politicians and entertainment entrepreneur P. T. Barnum, and in part because Brady seems to have recognized the value of public relations. By sending portraits of celebrities and views of the gallery interior to the newly launched picture journals, Frank Leslie's and Harper's Weekly, for translation into wood-engraved illustrations (pi. no. 43), he was able to focus attention on his own enterprise and on the role the daguerreotype might play in urban communication despite the fact that it was a one-of-a kind image.

This limitation had prompted the enterprising Plumbe to circumvent the unduplicatable nature of the daguerreo-type by issuing in 1846 a series of engravings entitled The National Plumbeotype Gallery, based on his camera portraits of national figures. Brady followed with his Gallery oflllustriouts Americans. Issued in 1850, it comprised 12 lithographs by Francois D'Avignon based on Brady studio daguerreotypes of famous Americans, among them the artist John James Audubon (pi. no. 44). In both publications, the implicit assumption that the character of an individual's contribution to public life can be seen in physical features and stance is testament to the continuing vigor of Lavater's ideas about physiognomy.

An even stronger belief in the conjunction of appearance and moral character is evident in the fine daguerreotype portraiture that issued from the Boston studio of Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Hawes. In business for almost 20 years—1843 to 1862—during the ascendancy of transcendentalist thought in that city, the partners approached portraiture with a profound respect for both spirit and fact. Convinced that "nature is not at all to be represented as it is, but as it ought to be and might possibly have been," they sought to capture "the best possible character and finest expression'"3 of which their sitters were capable without departing from the truth. South-worth and Hawes made more than 1,500 likenesses, a great many of which exhibit the exceptional authority apparent in an 1856 image of Charles Sumner (pi. no. 45) . A medallion portrait of an unknown sitter (pi. no. 46), made with a sliding plateholder patented by Southworth in 1855, is unusually fine. The varied positions of the head, the split dark and light backgrounds, and the arrangement of ovals to suggest a lunar cycle convey the sense that camera images can ensnare time as well as depict physical substances.

42. FRANCOIS D'AVIGNON. Portrait of Mathew Brady from The Photographic Art Journal, Vol. I. 1851.
Lithograph. Print Collection, New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.

43 A. BERGHAUS. M. B. Brady's New Photographic Gallery, Corner of Broadway and Tenth Street,
New York from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, Jan. 5, 1861.
Engraving. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

44. FRANCOIS D'AVIGNON. John James Audubon from Gallery of Illustrious Americans, 1850.
Lithograph after a photograph by Brady. Print Collection,
New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.

45. ALBERT SANDS SOUTHWORTH and JOSIAH JOHNSON HAWES. Charles Sumner, 1856.
Daguerreotype. Bostonian Society, Boston.

46. ALBERT SANDS SOUTHWORTH and JOSIAH JOHNSON HAWES. Unknown Lady, n.d.
Medallion daguerreotype. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston;
gift of Edward Southworth Hawes in Memory of his Father, Josiah Johnson Hawes.
 

It would be a mistake to think that most American daguerreotype portraiture attained the level of the work produced by Southworth and Hawes or even Brady. Most likenesses were simply records, whether made in fashionable studios or by small-town or itinerant daguerreotypists who charged little enough—from 25 cents to one dollar— to enable a broad sector of the populace to afford a portrait. On occasion, such images are appealing because of unusual pose or piquant expression or because of boldness and singular subject matter, as in a portrait of the Sauk chief Keokuk (pi. no. 47) made by Thomas Easterly, working in Missouri in 1847. On the whole, however, daguerreotype likenesses were remarkably similar to each other in their unrelieved straightforwardness and the solemn, almost frozen demeanor of the sitters. As a writer for Bailou's Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion of 1855 observed of a daguerreotype display: "If you have seen one of these cases you have seen them all. There is the militia officer in full regimentals . . . there is the family group, frozen into wax statuary attitudes and looking ... as if ... assembled for a funeral... the fast young man, taken with his hat on and a cigar in his mouth; the belle of the locality with a vast quantity of plaited hair and plated jewelry ... the best baby... the intellectual... and the young poet.... There is something interesting in the very worst of these daguerreotypes because there must be something of nature in all of them."

Of course, the unrelieved seriousness of expression in daguerreotype portraiture was in part the result of the lengthy process of arranging the sitter, head in clamp and hand firmly anchored, and then making the exposure, but spontaneity not only was technically difficult to achieve, it also was considered inappropriate to the ceremonial nature of an undertaking that for most sitters required proper deportment and correct attire. Even more joyless were the images of the dead (pi. no. 48) made as keepsakes for bereaved families for whom they possessed "the sublime power to transmit the almost living image of... loved ones." Nevertheless, this "Phantom concourse... mute as a grave,"16 evoked a singular response in the United States. As Richard Rudisill has pointed out in a provocative study, "the daguerreotypists employed their mirror images for the definition and recording of their time and their society.... They confronted Americans with themselves and sought to help them recognize their own significance."

In the rest of the Americas, both north and south, portraiture followed a course similar to that in eastern Europe, with the exception that the first portraits in Canada and Latin America often were made by itinerants from the United States and Europe seeking a lucrative employment. By the 1850s permanent studios had been established in the major cities of Canada and South America, where despite the provincial character of urban life in those regions, both metal and paper portraits were seen as symbols of economic well-being and national self-realization.

Among the itinerant photographers traveling to Canada, mention is made of a female daguerreotypist who spent a month making likenesses in Montreal in 1841. The names of other women crop up in notices and reports on photography's early years to suggest that in spite of the medium's association with chemicals and smelly manipulations, it was not in itself regarded as an unsuitable pastime for women. Anna Atkins, Julia Margaret Cameron, Genevieve Elizabeth Disderi, Lady Clementina Hawarden, Mrs. John Dillwyn Llewelyn, and Constance Talbot in Europe and Mary Ann Meade in the United States are only the best known of the women drawn to photography either in association with other members of the family or on their own. Women also were active behind the scenes in daguerreotype and paper printing establishments where they worked on assembly lines; later they were employed in firms that produced and processed photographic materials, among them those owned by George Eastman and the Lumiere brothers.

47. THOMAS EASTERLY. Keokuk, Sauk Chief, 1847. Modern gelatin silver print from a copy
negative of the original daguerreotype in the collection of the Missouri Historical Society.
National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

48. UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER (American). Dead Child, c. 1850. Daguerreotype.
Collection Richard Rudisill, Santa Fe, N.M.


Portraits on Paper: The Calotype

Calotype portraiture never achieved the commercial popularity of the daguerreotype. Talbot's first successes in portraying the human face occurred in October, 1840, when he made a number of close-ups of his wife Constance, among them a three-quarter view of exceptional vitality requiring a 30 second exposure (pi. no. 50). Convinced that paper portraiture was as commercially feasible as the daguerreotype, Talbot entered into an arrangement with a painter of miniatures, Henry Collen, to make calotype likenesses, but the resulting portraits, including one of Queen Victoria and the Princess Royal (pi. no. 49), often were so indistinct that considerable retouching—at which Collen excelled—was necessary. Since neither Collen nor Talbot's next partner in portraiture, Claudet, were able to convince the public that the duplicatable paper image with its broad chiaroscuro style was preferable to the fine detail of the daguerreotype, commercial paper portraiture in England languished until the era of the glass negative.

The situation was different in Scotland, where, as noted in Chapter I, Talbot's associate Sir David Brewster was instrumental in introducing the calotype to David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson (see Profile). In an endeavor to record the 400 or so likenesses to be included in a painting that Hill decided to make in 1843 commemorating the separation of the Church of Scotland from the Church of England, the two became so caught up in photography that they also produced hundreds of commanding portraits of individuals who had no relationship to the religious issues that were the subject of the painting. Aware that the power of the calotype lay in the fact that it looked like the "imperfect work of man ...and not the perfect work of God," Hill and Adamson used the rough texture of the paper negative to create images with broad chiaroscuro effects that were likened by contemporaries to the paintings of Sir Joshua Reynolds and Rembrandt.

Among the sitters, who posed for one to two minutes cither in an out-of-doors studio in Edinburgh, with a minimum of furnishings arranged to simulate an interior, or on location, were artists, intellectuals, the upper-class gentry of Scotland, and working fisherfolk in the nearby town of Newhaven. Simplicity of pose and dramatic yet untheatrical lighting emphasize the solid strength of the sitter James Linton (pi. no. 51), a working fisherman. On the other hand, the genteel character of well-bred Victorian women is brought out in the poses, softer lighting, and gracefully intertwined arrangement of the three figures in The Misses Binny and Miss Monro (pi. no. 52). Such Hill and Adamson images recall the idealized depictions of women in paintings by Daniel McClise and Alfred Chalons, popularized in the publication Book of Beauty, but as photographs they gain an added dimension because the camera reveals a degree of particularity entirely lacking in the paintings.

In artistic and literary circles in Britain and France, these photographs were considered the paradigm of portrait photography in that they made use of traditional artist concepts regarding arrangement and employed arm spheric effects to reveal character. During the 1850s group that included William Collie in the British Isles and Louis Desire Blanquart-Evrard, Charles Hugo, Gustave Le Gray, Charles Negre, and Victor Regnault on the Continent followed a similar path, using themselves, members of their families, and friends to make calotype portraits that emphasize light and tonal masses and suppress fussy detail.

49. HENRY COLLEN. Queen Victoria with Her Daughter, Victoria, Princess Royal, 1844-45.
Calotype. Royal Library', Windsor Castle.
Reproduced by Gracious Permission of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

50. WILLIAM HENRY FOX TALBOT. "C'S Portrait (Constance Talbot), Oct. 10, 1840.
Calotype. Royal Photographic Society, Bath, England.

51. DAVID OCTAVIUS HILL and ROBERT ADAMSON. Redding the Line
(Portrait of James Linton), c. 1846. Calotype. Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.

52. DAVID OCTAVIUS HILL and ROBERT ADAMSON. The Misses Binny and Miss Monro, c. 1845.
Calotype. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1939.

 

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