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Particle Accelerator Reveals Hidden Faces in Damaged 19th-Century Daguerreotype Portraits

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Post by Dragon on Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:43 pm

Ironically, the core purpose of portrait photography—inscribing identity in an “irrefutable assertion of existence,” as theorist Roland Barthes noted in Camera Lucida—is often rendered defunct by decades of damage to the physical image.

Such was the case with two 19th-century daguerreotypes housed at the National Gallery of Canada (NGC). Obscured by tarnish and miscellaneous defacements, the plates offered no trace of the images they had once held, which is how they came to be slated for inclusion in a new study of daguerreotype degradation.

When PhD student Madalena Kozachuk of Western University in London, Canada, tested the plates using a process known as rapid-scanning, synchrotron-based micro-X-ray fluorescence, however, she found herself face-to-face with two anonymous figures, a man and a woman whose images had been previously lost to time.

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Post by Dragon on Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:46 pm

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(L: National Gallery of Canada, R: Madalena Kozachuk)

Obscured by tarnish and miscellaneous defacements, the plates offered no trace of the images they had once held.

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Post by Cloud_Away on Thu Jul 12, 2018 4:30 pm

What is a daguerreotype?


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The daguerreotype was the first commercially successful photographic process (1839-1860) in the history of photography. Named after the inventor, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, each daguerreotype is a unique image on a silvered copper plate.

In contrast to photographic paper, a daguerreotype is not flexible and is rather heavy.The daguerreotype is accurate, detailed and sharp. It has a mirror-like surface and is very fragile. Since the metal plate is extremely vulnerable, most daguerreotypes are presented in a special housing. Different types of housings existed: an open model, a folding case, jewelry…

Numerous portrait studio’s opened their doors from 1840 onward. Daguerreotypes were very expensive, so only the wealthy could afford to have their portrait taken. Even though the portrait was the most popular subject, the daguerreotype was used to record many other images such as topographic and documentary subjects, antiquities, still lives, natural phenomena and remarkable events.
European daguerreotypes are scarce. They are scattered in institutional and private collections all over the world. Many aspects of the daguerreotype still need to be discovered. They can help us to understand the impact of photography on Europe’s social and cultural history.

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Post by Cloud_Away on Thu Jul 12, 2018 4:33 pm

Aww. Glad they figured a way to view them again, how amazing is that. I'd never heard of that (rapid scanning) but it did make me wonder how many people have thrown (or given) away tarnished plates , without knowing

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