Daguerreotypes

“Die Erotische Daguerreotypie” – Rainer Wick

Recently I acquired a book from Antiquariaat Stille which is called: Die Erotische Daguerreotypie. I’m normally not specifically interested in that sort of photography (I consider artistic nude one of the most overrated forms of photography E.V.E.R.) but that aside I thought this could be of interest seeing that it’s about genuine daguerreotypes dating from that era of photography and thus providing an interesting insight in the history of sexuality, even more so the depicting of sexuality, and ideal of beauty. An ideal that has underwent quite some changes. Raw naked beauty looked a lot more healthy those days 🙂

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If you want to see what this book is about go out and find it. It’s interesting, also the prologue. I am willing to share with you however two images (the book gets a lot more explicit than this but I don’t find this blog the proper place to share them). A couple of things that stood out to me are that the desire of more than one female is of all times, or so it seems. Masturbation is too. Of course, of course you say, but we always think that we invented the ‘cool’ stuff but people were also real people in the 1800’s and, at least for me, when looking at these old stiff portraits of people from the dawn of photography, I tend to forget that at times. Keepers of Light has a wonderful piece about the language of photography which this does remind me of. Read it, it’s a must! And to think that in the Netherlands the sexual revolution took place no earlier than the sixties…I find that striking and funny. Also, think about the technical issues when making photos like these. As for the rest; let your own imagination take you places 🙂

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P.s. I expect a lot more spam now after this post haha 🙂

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In het volle zonlicht – De Daguerreotypieën van het Museum Enschedé te Haarlem

I think it was two weeks ago a client from the photo store I work for came in and told me the book store across the street had a really nice book about a collection of Daguerreotypes originating from the Netherlands. I thanked him for the heads-up and planned to look up the book as soon as I had my lunch break. He offered to check for me if the book was still in stock. Ten minutes later he returned with what looked to be a book wrapped in gift paper. It was that specific book 🙂

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It turned out to be a book on a collection of Daguerreotypes from one single family; Family Enschedé from Haarlem NL. They were able to trace 100 daguerreotypes, of which 81 are part of the collection of the Museum Enschedé in Haarlem and 19 still reside in the family’s hands, including a lot of letters going back and forth from different relatives in the family. With the help of these and additional diaries and account books they were able to trace these daguerreotypes back to this family, and even in great lines who was portrayed by which photographer. They have discovered and preserved a well-organised family archive which actually is one of the biggest photographic collections in the world of one single family.

The fascinating part here is that the preserved daguerreotypes are from the actual beginning of the invention of this process. Through their letters it becomes clear that this new miracle really is very special in the eyes of a lot of people and that certain members of the family make efforts in learning and working with this very process themselves which results in quite a bit of home-made daguerreotypes.

There’s also a chapter in this book dedicated to the technical aspects of this particular process and restoration of the images. All of the 100 daguerreotypes have been displayed in the catalogue section of the book with a proper description, as complete as was possible. Interesting!

Waysofseeing

One of the other books I came to finally finishing is “Ways of Seeing” by John Berger. Recommended to me when I was studying photography I immediately bought it but started reading it years later haha, and finished it past week. It’s an interesting book, have to read it again and try to read it all in one go (it’s not huge) but presents a different way of looking at things: art, oil paintings in relation to (modern) advertising, the presence of women (albeit nude or not) and how this differs from the presence of men and publicity. An interesting read, worthy of re-reading as I’ll probably notice more relations etc. during a second seeing.

I’ve also ordered another book, also touching the subject of ways of seeing: “Beeldspraak” from Ton Hendriks (thanks John for the heads-up!). More on that later 🙂


Fotografica Fair Nieuwegein – Daguerreotype Score

Well, nothing special but I was looking for an original daguerreotype for some time now. Just for myself but also to show others how a real one looks in person and what the difference to an ambrotype is. I preferred a landscape but since they are quite rare because of the extreme cumbersome nature of the process these are also pretty harsh on your wallet. I kept it to a simple portrait. But these things are awesome!

The pretty handcrafted box, pretty much intact

The pretty handcrafted box, pretty much intact

 

If I had to guess an American Dag because of the decorative style...?

If I had to guess an American Dag because of the decorative style...?

 

Looking good huh!

 

The fair was fun, wasn’t looking for anything special so kept it to this pretty boy 😉 Looking forward to Doesburg this year! Probably will be looking for an original ambrotype then…
Also, I really liked this new location in Nieuwegein. Much better than in Houten. A lot more spacious and it seemed there was more interesting stuff than before. Thumbs up!

-Indra


Daguerreotype Workshop 26-11-11

So…Saturday the 26th finally came! What a great experience, going back in time even further. I did not sign up for this workshop with the intention of making my own daguerreotypes but merely to enjoy some more history and to really grasp what this process is all about. You can read all you want but actually seeing it makes it a whole different ball game. Marinus Ortelee and Charlotte Edam did a fantastic job sharing this process and sharing their unbridled enthusiasm!

I’ll post the process as we went through it below. I hope I remember everything correctly. If someone notices any flaws or whatever please contact me so I can adjust it. I don’t want no misinformation on here! Oh, and beware…LOTS of photos!

P.s. For a short explanation of the process click here.

The start of the process: take a whole lot of perseverance and a copper plate and polish it for about 6 hours on end.

Luckily for us Marinus and Charlotte already prepared the plates we were gonna use so this was merely to let us feel what an incredible job it is to polish these plates for so many hours on end. Getting them spotless is an absolute must to be able to make good plates. I was already looking for shortcuts with the glass plates for collodion (dishwasher) but this takes true patience and perseverance. My utmost respect!

The polishing is being done with a bit of oil and some grounded pumi stone. The finer polishing is being achieved by using kaput mortuum which is a red powder consisting essentially of ferric oxide, also used as a dye for painting.

After the plate has been polished until the surface is impeccable the plate is being galvanized in order to create a thin silver layer unto the plate. After that the plate is being buffed using three different ones, going from fine to finest buffing. The first buff also uses a bit of kaput mortuum, but then treated to get it even in a finer state, the second one is of untreated leather but finer than the first and the last one uses a flannel cloth as the finest way of buffing the plate. Now it’s ALMOST ready to be fumed!

Daguerreotypes need a different setup in the darkroom so I'll try to explain. On the left you see a fume cupboard, suction drainage is very important for the fumes (!). You see two wooden boxes on the right in the cupboard. The one on the left contains the Bromine, the one on the right contains the Iodine. They are used to fume the plate with in order to sensitize it. On the table on the right is the "fixer", the rinsing bath, the toner etc. for finishing of the plate. Developing happens elsewhere but we'll get to that soon.

Here you can see the table on the right better where the plate is being finished.

Here you can see the boxes inside the cupboard closer. If you look closely you can see the actual lid of the box is made from plexiglass. You can pull it out when the plate is placed on the top upside down to let the fumes hit the surface of the plate. This way the fumes are kept in the box as much as possible. The fumes that do escape are being sucked out via the drainage system. It's a very clever system and very cheap as well. The boxes come from Xenos and just need a little modification to make it work. In front of the boxes you see the sectorial disk used to carry and hold the plate so that you won't pollute it with your hands.

A cleaned and totally prepared plate waiting to be fumed. The plate is sitting on a buff covered with flannel for the last and final buffing.

The group looking at a daguerreotype presented in passe-partout.

The final buffing of the plate starts with heating up the buff a little using a hair dryer.

And the final buffing of the plate, done to heaten up the plate a little before it goes onto the fuming boxes. This has to be done evenly so that the fuming layer will be even as well.

The plate goes unto the first fuming box containing the Iodine. The plate goes through different stages of colors here, going from yellow to pink to green, back to yellow etc. and all shades in between. The color that the plate needs to have is dependent on what type of weather you're in, which contrast your subject has, the desired result you have in mind etc. Typically the plate has to be somewhere between yellow and pink which, in this case, took about 60 seconds. Then it's being placed in the Bromine box for about half a minute. Then back onto the Iodine for another 6 seconds and then it's ready to be placed in the back of the camera. This has to be done in subdued light as the plate has reached its sensitivity to light. From now you have about half an hour to make and develop the photo. Noticeably longer than the 5 minutes in Collodion!

Here you can see that the silver plate has turned yellow.

This photo shows the plate unto the fuming box with the sort of doorknob on top to handle it. You can also see the plexiglass lid having been pulled out of the box to let the fumes hit the plate.

As a side note..the plate can be prepared with Iodine only. It’s not necessarily needed to use Bromine. BUT (yes, there’s always one of those) the Bromine makes for a better contrast and detail in the plate. More mid tones can be achieved than when just working with the Iodine.

Marinus is preparing the shot while Charlotte and Philip are immortalizing the scene the digital style 😉

The plate has been exposed, now on to the developing stage which happens inside the van. The developing process is done using mercury fumes. For safety reasons this did not take place in the darkroom to keep the mercury as far away as possible from the Bromine and Iodine. The developing is being done in a sealed off box, again with an air drainage attached to it. The mercury is being heated up to about 65 degrees which is monitored outside the van using a digital thermometer.

The mercury is being heated using an alcohol lamp. The white cable you can see popping out is the cable to the thermometer which leads to the read-of-screen attached on the outside of the van. After the mercury has been heated to the desired temperature the lamp is being "turned" off and mercury is being cooled down until it reaches about 30 degrees. The fumes forming in that time should normally be enough to develop the plate completely. If, after carefully checking the plate, the desired result is not met, the mercury is being heated up again and the process repeats itself.

Here you can see the thermometer on the left with the plate in the wooden box on the right, developing.

Development approved and back to the darkroom where the unexposed silver can be washed off using thiosulphate for about 4 minutes.

Then rinsing with a about a liter of distilled water.

You can then blow of the drops of water with an air blower and leave it to dry.

Next step: preparing the gold toner. This mixture contains two dillutions: gold toner (2%) and thiosulphate (0,8%). When first brought together the mixture turns very dark. You have to let it sit until it clears again completely and then the mixture has to be heaten up until 45 degrees celcius. Time for coffee!

A Durst Coterm is being used for the heating.

After the coffee the plate was being put to the top of the tray, the gold toner poured in the lower part. When enough the mixture got flown in one move over the plate to get evenly done. This took about 4 minutes and the plate got his goldish shine meaning it's good for a whole lot a years to come.

Again the plate is being rinsed with water and the water drops blown off with an air blower. Now the plate is ready to dry out and prepare for matting and framing. A proper dry takes about 2 days to complete.

Voila...the result!!! A better photo will be send to me so hang on tight for that! This digital copy does this type of image no good. The original is fascinating beyond words!

The matting has been finished. It only needs a proper backing and... Done!

Here a great day came to an end. Lot's to talk about as we sat around the table discussing the experience and listening to the many stories Marinus and Charlotte were eager to share.

What a great day!! I wonder what’ll come next…? 🙂

Thank you once again Marinus and Charlotte. You did a great job and you’re fascinating people! Also a big thanks to the Pieter Brueghel Center who are cool enough to organize these sort of things!


Daguerreotype Workshop

I’m pleased to have booked a workshop Daguerreotype at the Pieter Brueghel center in Veghel November this year. To go back even further in time is something quite interesting and intriguing even though I have no plans (yet) to be working with this technique.

The process:

A sheet of copper that has been electroplated with a coating of metallic silver is used and polished to a fine sheen. This, according to those making daguerreotypes, is the most difficult and time-consuming part of the process. After this the metal plate is placed in a light-tight box (called an iodizing box) that contains iodine. In the box the fumes will react with the silver, creating a light-sensitive silver iodide coated plate. The plate will turn several colors during this iodizing stage from stray yellow to deep yellow, rose, blue and green. Deep yellow, tinged with rose was a typical fuming state of iodine-only daguerreotypes.

Under the illumination of candlelight the plate is loaded into a camera and exposed to a subject in bright sunlight. Then the plate will be developed in a box with the fumes of mercury that has been heated of 60 degrees Celsius. During this stage the mercury will merge (amalgamate) with the silver iodide that has been exposed to light.

Finally the plate is being washed with a diluted solution of sodium thiosulfate (originally sodium chloride; Daguerre’s manual, 1938) and washed with water. The shadows of the image are highly reflected polished silver, and the highlights are a white amalgam that scatters light, created by the mercury’s effect upon the silver during development. Once dried, it is permanent. (Source: The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes by Cristopher James)

If also interested in following this workshop click over here.

-Indra