Daguerreotypes were the first permanent images made with cameras; each one is unique owing to the particularities of the medium. Following research conducted by Nicéphore Niépce in 1827 and continued by Louis-Jacques Mandé Daguerre, the process was made public by the Académie des Sciences, Paris, on 19 August, 1839. The technique entailed polishing a copper plate covered with a thin layer of silver, then exposing it to iodine vapour to render the silver layer light-sensitive. After exposure in a view camera, the latent image was revealed through contact with mercury vapour. The plate was then fixed and gilded to enrich its tones. Due to their delicate surfaces, plates had to be mounted and sealed under protective glass. In Europe, daguerreotypes were usually framed and hung on a wall, while in America and England they were typically sealed in presentation cases.

Because of their tremendous sharpness, daguerreotypes were used most often for portraiture. Given that fact, the CCA collection of daguerreotypes is remarkable for the number and quality of its 73 images of architectural subjects. Among these exceptional images from the earliest days of photography, between 1839 and 1860, are a view of the Propylaea and the city of Athens made by Baron Jean-Baptiste-Louis Gros, as well as a set of photographs of Paris scenes and monuments captured by Victor Chevalier, Louis and André Breton, Alphonse Poitevin, and Charles Nègre. An American daguerreotype by Samuel Bemis, showing the King’s Chapel cemetery in Boston, is also among the collection’s unique works. Other memorable images found in the collection were made elsewhere in the United States, and in Brazil, France, Germany, Egypt, and Italy.

You may locate these items by searching for “daguerreotype” in the online catalogue.

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