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  The research archive of Gary W. Ewer regarding the history of the daguerreotype

On this day (February 6) in the year 1843, the following article appeared in the from the "Australian" (Sydney,[?] Australia): - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Mr. Goodman.--This gentleman has received recently, further "means and appliances," so as to render his miniatures more complete. We copy the following from The Illustrated London News, relative to the Photographic Portraitures: "Of all the wonderful discoveries of modern science, there is none more miraculous in its nature, and but few that have made so rapid a progress, as the system of photographic portraiture, which, "by the sacred radiance of the sun," reveals to us, in the space of a few seconds, a complete transcript of our outward man. In the application of natural; powers to the arts and sciences, the advancement made towards perfection has almost uniformly been gradual, although occasionally very rapid strides have succeeded the slow and measured tread; and this principle is fully borne out by the examination of the progressive appliance of air and fire, of wind and water, to be numerous branches of art, manufacture, and commerce. Light, however, the source from whence photography springs, has taken no part in the gradual advancement we have described: although it may be termed the primary of created powers, the application of its capabilities has been the least understood. Philosophers, even of the present day, cling to hypothesis, and adopt, we will suppose from conviction, the different theories of their predecessors as to its origin and efficacy. The invention of Daguerre cannot fail, therefore, to lay open new ideas, which may be productive of great advantages to science. We almost feel inclined to trace the first germ of its existence, with the origin of painting itself, to the Greek maiden's drawing upon the wall her lover's portrait from his shadow; but still we do not hesitate to render all due honour to the modern author of the discovery. In its adaptation to portraiture, the original invention has undergone many improvements, and none are so conspicuous as those introduced by Mr. Beard, which constitute the difference between Daguerreotype and Photography. Portraits taken by the former method are invariably reversed, and frequently subjected to distortion; but this never occurs in Mr. Beard's process, the chief advantage of which is the application of the reflecting camera. The detail of the proceeding may be interesting. Let us imagine Mr. Beard's atelier, and some one seated for his portrait. The time required is but a few seconds, and is occupied as follows: The sitter's eyes are fixed upon some given object; his attitude a perfect study; and mark him if he be a vain man, his hair is smartened, and his countenance assumes its sweetest simper. The operator having previously prepared a polished silver plate of the utmost brilliancy, that the chemical action may be the more efficient, exposes it to the vapour of iodine, until it acquires a pale yellow tint. It is now conveyed to the camera, care being taken that not a single ray of light gleams upon it in the transit, the door of the camera is opened, and the full action of the sun is concentrated upon the surface of the plate. In a less space of time than the words can be penned a coup de soleil takes off the sitter's head. The portrait can now be coloured in its natural tints, or tinted by dipping in a solution of gold, neither of which processes at all impair the brilliancy of the touches. We, ourselves, prefer the latter method, as it destroys the leaden appearances of the ground, and imparts to its a softness and a warmth that are alike desirable. Without disparagement to the performance of the miniature painter, we must record our veto against his works, when brought as portraits (their chief value) into comparison with this flash-of-lightning method of proceeding; they may claim admiration for their finished excellence, yet are but rarely entitled to it, for the expression of sentiment and grace, which the masters only of this art, in their productions, have at times so beautifully displayed. But photographic portraiture represents the semblance of its living model--it depicts not merely the exactness of feature, so easily attained by hand it preserves the life and animation the delicacy of expression; in fact, so much of the character of the individual as is displayed in his features during the period of his sitting--"For by his face straightway shall you know his heart." and this, so decisive, and without chance of erring is only attained at mere random from the hand of the miniature practitioner." (With thanks to Sandy Barrie for this text) -------------------------------------------------------------- 02-06-98

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