A journey through the beginnings of photography in the hands of one of the largest collections of daguerreotypes of the State.

The origins of the collection
The Duran daguerreotype collection is one of the most outstanding collections of the Spanish State, both for the quality and diversity of their parts and the authors who are represented. It was compiled by photographer Carles Duran Torrens (1911-2001) and donated in 1984 by Kodak, home owner at the time of collection, to the Generalitat de Catalunya. From that moment it became part of the endowment guarded by the Museu de la Ciència i de la Tècnica de Catalunya..
The birth of photography and its protagonists
Attempts to capture the images produced inside a dark chamber only through the light itself and photosensitive substances, had begun shortly before 1800 with mixed results and not entirely satisfactory. Partnered in 1829 for research in this field, a restless inventor Joseph-Nicephore Niepce (1765-1833) and a painter concerned about the practical and commercial aspect of his art, Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre (1787-1851). After the death of Niépce and based primarily on the previous work of his late partner (the blueprints), Daguerre get, finally, the aim of capturing images stably captured with his camera obscura; Thus was born the picture. Although early daguerreotypes made by the same Daguerre dating from 1837, the invention was not publicly presented until 1839. The new technique would named after its inventor himself as daguerreotype and the first photographs would be called with the name of daguerreotypes.
Technical advances.
Daguerreotypes were direct positive of chamber, and therefore of those unique pieces could not make copies. Consisted on a sheet of silver plated copper on one of its faces, it was applied after a process to make it photosensitive. The plates were initially very insensitive and exposure times were very high. But the first steps were swift, and soon appeared bromide as accelerating agent in sensitizing the plates and marketing of a new type of lens, the latter thanks to the design of the Hungarian mathematician József Miksa Petzval. Petzval first used numerical computation to build a set of lens with a large aperture. These optics have an immediate success and would be known popularly as Petzval type. These goals would be essential for over half a century for the realization of portraits.

New chemicals as the bromide or gold chloride were added to the original process by improving the sensitivity and stability of the plates. Often these products involving high toxicity.

The use of new optical and chemicals would enable making daguerreotypes with exposure times slightly less than one minute after starting the 1840s.

Hieratic poses many daguerreotypes are due to body attachment systems used to immobilize the model during the long exposure time required to make the plates.

The bourgeois portrait
Since its appearance, the picture was welcomed widely by the bourgeoisie as a means of representation, to the detriment of other more expensive systems like miniature oil portrait, common among the aristocracy. With the development of other photographic techniques during the 1840s, the daguerreotype was reserved almost exclusively to portraiture, and more particularly the portrait of society in which the members of the burgeoning middle class are made to appear with an image of respectability, with which they want to highlight the professional success and prestige social.

It was very common for daguerreotypes were lit, ie, its surface was slightly manually colored with different pigments.

This technique resulted in works of exquisite richness and realism as in this case.

The daguerreotype is usually a photography studio with fixed formulas representation following the fashions of the time.

Men are made frequently portray hats, canes or cigars, while women often come with fans or books.

Jewelry, flowers, the folds of the curtain and even the top of the chair are illuminated.

On the back of the framed daguerreotypes photographers often they beat their labels, to confirm authorship and publicize the study.

In daguerreotypes was very common illuminate the jewels were displayed as a symbol of wealth. This piece is a good example.

The author of this piece, Enrique Lorichon, is known for the quality of its work, its formal perfection shows that Lorichon had an absolute mastery of the art of the daguerreotype.

It is a daguerreotype which follows the French style, which Lorichon in an announcement of the time described as "full clarity and beautiful white backgrounds (sic)".

Daguerreotypes inverted image laterally by the effect of the camera obscura. In this case, the medal was actually on the right lapel.

From the 1850s began to produce in stereoscopic daguerreotypes, of which the collection Duran has four parts, each with erotic themes.

Sometimes daguerrotypes present abrasions on its surface, resulting in the majority of cases of failed attempts cleaning and restoration.

Daguerreotypes also were put in jewelry and pendants.

The jewels are illuminated with gold.

To simulate the writing of the letter, the illuminator has recorded the plate surface with a chisel.

In the United States emerged the so called "union cases" (junction boxes) inside which the daguerrotypes were put in order to protect them. They were made with shellac, one of the first thermoplastic.

They are also common in embossed leather lined boxes with various drawings.

In this case the box where the daguerreotype is affixed simulates a book.

Another case of fading image for failed cleaning attempt. Daguerrotypes image formed without binder and therefore its surface is extremely fragile.

It was common for children to appear moved in the daguerreotypes, and it was difficult they were absolutely still during long exposure times that were necessary to make the plates.

mNACTEC
Credits: Story

Museu de la Ciència i de la Tècnica de Catalunya mNACTEC

Generalitat de Catalunya
Departament de Cultura

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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