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Re: Stained fingers in the upside-down daguerreotype, and a new theory

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  • Rob McElroy
    Hi Dan, The trouble in trying to figure this out, is that your plate-mark only lets us know when the latest date the plate could have been manufactured, which
    Message 1 of 3 , Jun 27, 2012
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      Hi Dan,

      The trouble in trying to figure this out, is that your plate-mark only lets us know when the latest date the plate could have been manufactured, which could have been as late as sometime in 1850 when Scovill changed the way they stamped their name on the plates.  What we don't know, is when this 1850 (or earlier) plate was actually exposed.

      The first public experimentations with the collodion process really didn't begin until 1851.  So, if those truly are the silver nitrate stains from collodion on his fingers, then when was your daguerreotype actually made/exposed?  Did the photographer have a supply of unused plates that were on-hand into the 1850s?  Did he buy them from a retailer who had these earlier plates still in stock into the 1850s?  Or did the photographer reuse/rebuff an older plate later in the 1850s after the collodion process became more popular?

      The other possibility is that the photographer's dirty fingers have nothing to do with photography and that they're just dirty.

      But, I have a different theory.  It wouldn't be hard to believe that your image was made sometime in the very early collodion days around 1851 or 1852 when photographers started experimenting with the wet-plate process and got lots of stains on their fingers.

      Even though we'll probably never be able to prove it, a plausible theory might be, that the upside-down daguerreotype being held by the photographer was his way of signaling the impending death of the daguerreotype portrait because of the newly invented collodion process - that produced a negative with which an unlimited number of prints could now be made.

      The daguerreotype only made a single salable portrait, while the wet-plate negative could make an unlimited number of salable images.  Any 1851 daguerreotypist could easily foresee the profit potential of the multiple-copy negative/positive process vs. the single-copy daguerreotype.  The popularity of the daguerreotype rapidly decreased starting in the early 1850s, primarily due to the wet-plate negative.

      Maybe your interesting and compelling image was meant to be this photographer's last daguerreotype as he ushered in the new (and potentially more profitable) multiple-print era.  It could have been his final tribute to a dying art.  An art that I, and many others, are vowing to keep alive because of its exquisite beauty, and ironically because it is a one-of-a-kind object, and NOT easily reproducible.

      Cheers,
      Rob McElroy
      Buffalo, NY


      On Jun 27, 2012, at 6:21 PM, dcolucci@... wrote:

      Hi Rob,
       
      Given the plate is marked SCOVILLS, this would date the image to 1849 or earlier...  That's too early for collodion use, isnt it?
       
      Thanks
       
      Dan
       
    • sandybarrie
      Hi, I add my 2 cents worth here... Iodine crystals, when handled stain skin very dark brown... is it possible he was ether handeling iodine crystals, or
      Message 2 of 3 , Jun 27, 2012
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        Hi,

        I add my 2 cents worth here...

        Iodine crystals, when handled stain skin very dark brown...  is it possible he was ether handeling iodine crystals, or cleaning out his iodine box...  had he had his fingers inside the box could also explain.

        Iodine does "go off", in fairly short time when exposed to the air, and needs to be stored in an airtight glass bottle.  just a jar or a wood box or even a glass dish with a lid will not do... so as an ex daguerrian experimenter, I know that after making a batch, you promtly return the iodine to its bottle at the end of the day... or your would almost have to replace the crystals almost every week...

        though in theory they last a long time, and they certainly smell the same even after a few weeks, from my short time using them, the best reaction with silver is when they are "new", and when they get weaker, it can take longer to get the plate to the same "golden/staw" yellow... but the effect one the plate is quite different.

        I had a curious case of almost getting a panchromatic effect on one plate, shooting a red postal van, that almost looked normal panchro... when normally on the blue sensitive they are almost black.

        I was never able to repeat it...as it was rather cold that weekend in Sydney.

        Regards, Sandy Barrie...


        On 28/06/2012, at 2:47 PM, Rob McElroy wrote:

         

        Hi Dan,


        The trouble in trying to figure this out, is that your plate-mark only lets us know when the latest date the plate could have been manufactured, which could have been as late as sometime in 1850 when Scovill changed the way they stamped their name on the plates.  What we don't know, is when this 1850 (or earlier) plate was actually exposed.

        The first public experimentations with the collodion process really didn't begin until 1851.  So, if those truly are the silver nitrate stains from collodion on his fingers, then when was your daguerreotype actually made/exposed?  Did the photographer have a supply of unused plates that were on-hand into the 1850s?  Did he buy them from a retailer who had these earlier plates still in stock into the 1850s?  Or did the photographer reuse/rebuff an older plate later in the 1850s after the collodion process became more popular?

        The other possibility is that the photographer's dirty fingers have nothing to do with photography and that they're just dirty.

        But, I have a different theory.  It wouldn't be hard to believe that your image was made sometime in the very early collodion days around 1851 or 1852 when photographers started experimenting with the wet-plate process and got lots of stains on their fingers.

        Even though we'll probably never be able to prove it, a plausible theory might be, that the upside-down daguerreotype being held by the photographer was his way of signaling the impending death of the daguerreotype portrait because of the newly invented collodion process - that produced a negative with which an unlimited number of prints could now be made.

        The daguerreotype only made a single salable portrait, while the wet-plate negative could make an unlimited number of salable images.  Any 1851 daguerreotypist could easily foresee the profit potential of the multiple-copy negative/positive process vs. the single-copy daguerreotype.  The popularity of the daguerreotype rapidly decreased starting in the early 1850s, primarily due to the wet-plate negative.

        Maybe your interesting and compelling image was meant to be this photographer's last daguerreotype as he ushered in the new (and potentially more profitable) multiple-print era.  It could have been his final tribute to a dying art.  An art that I, and many others, are vowing to keep alive because of its exquisite beauty, and ironically because it is a one-of-a-kind object, and NOT easily reproducible.

        Cheers,
        Rob McElroy
        Buffalo, NY


        On Jun 27, 2012, at 6:21 PM, dcolucci@... wrote:

        Hi Rob,
         
        Given the plate is marked SCOVILLS, this would date the image to 1849 or earlier...  That's too early for collodion use, isnt it?
         
        Thanks
         
        Dan
         


        Sandy Barrie.

        Vintage Graphics.
        ABN  15 182 803 759
        Po Box 425
        Booval
        Qld. 4304
        Australia
        Ph. 61-7-38160341

        kodakery@...

        Honorary Life member, Australian Institute of Professional Photography.

      • sandybarrie
        forgot to say that pure Bromine liquid also stains badly, but that cant be the case, as it is so very corrosive as to almost take the skin of you fingers if
        Message 3 of 3 , Jun 27, 2012
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          forgot to say that pure Bromine liquid also stains badly, but that cant be the case, as it is so very corrosive as to almost take the skin of you fingers if even the slightest drop of the pure gets on you.

          as to the effect of diluted bromine liquid, it wont stain, and only smells like an over chlorinated swimming pool.

          regards

          Sandy

          On 28/06/2012, at 2:47 PM, Rob McElroy wrote:

           

          Hi Dan,


          The trouble in trying to figure this out, is that your plate-mark only lets us know when the latest date the plate could have been manufactured, which could have been as late as sometime in 1850 when Scovill changed the way they stamped their name on the plates.  What we don't know, is when this 1850 (or earlier) plate was actually exposed.

          The first public experimentations with the collodion process really didn't begin until 1851.  So, if those truly are the silver nitrate stains from collodion on his fingers, then when was your daguerreotype actually made/exposed?  Did the photographer have a supply of unused plates that were on-hand into the 1850s?  Did he buy them from a retailer who had these earlier plates still in stock into the 1850s?  Or did the photographer reuse/rebuff an older plate later in the 1850s after the collodion process became more popular?

          The other possibility is that the photographer's dirty fingers have nothing to do with photography and that they're just dirty.

          But, I have a different theory.  It wouldn't be hard to believe that your image was made sometime in the very early collodion days around 1851 or 1852 when photographers started experimenting with the wet-plate process and got lots of stains on their fingers.

          Even though we'll probably never be able to prove it, a plausible theory might be, that the upside-down daguerreotype being held by the photographer was his way of signaling the impending death of the daguerreotype portrait because of the newly invented collodion process - that produced a negative with which an unlimited number of prints could now be made.

          The daguerreotype only made a single salable portrait, while the wet-plate negative could make an unlimited number of salable images.  Any 1851 daguerreotypist could easily foresee the profit potential of the multiple-copy negative/positive process vs. the single-copy daguerreotype.  The popularity of the daguerreotype rapidly decreased starting in the early 1850s, primarily due to the wet-plate negative.

          Maybe your interesting and compelling image was meant to be this photographer's last daguerreotype as he ushered in the new (and potentially more profitable) multiple-print era.  It could have been his final tribute to a dying art.  An art that I, and many others, are vowing to keep alive because of its exquisite beauty, and ironically because it is a one-of-a-kind object, and NOT easily reproducible.

          Cheers,
          Rob McElroy
          Buffalo, NY


          On Jun 27, 2012, at 6:21 PM, dcolucci@... wrote:

          Hi Rob,
           
          Given the plate is marked SCOVILLS, this would date the image to 1849 or earlier...  That's too early for collodion use, isnt it?
           
          Thanks
           
          Dan
           


          Sandy Barrie.

          Vintage Graphics.
          ABN  15 182 803 759
          Po Box 425
          Booval
          Qld. 4304
          Australia
          Ph. 61-7-38160341

          kodakery@...

          Honorary Life member, Australian Institute of Professional Photography.

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