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

On this day (March 22) in the year 1889, the following account (a continuation of a transcription of a speach by Bogardus) appeared in "The British Journal of Photography" Vol. 36, No. 1507 (22 March 1889) pp. 200-201. This is part two of a two-part article. Part one appeared in Vol. 36, No. 1506 (15 March 1889) pp. 183-184 and was posted as DagNews for 3-15-98. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER.* THE earliest photographic literature that I remember was Humphrey's Journal, and a journal--I think he called it The Photographic and Fine Art Journal--by Mr. H. H. Snelling. If there were earlier ones I do not remember them. I have several of the pictures by which they were illustrated after they commenced making photographs, but they are pretty poor things compared to what we made nowadays. Still at that time they were considered wonderful. I well remember the first paper picture I ever saw, and the first little carte-de-visite that I ever saw--a fried of mine brought it from Paris. It was a full length picture of a man standing by a fluted column, and his head was a little larger than the head of a pin; and I laughed when I saw it, and I thought it was a very curious little thing, but, however, it was not long before I was making them at the rate of a hundred to a hundred and twenty-five dozen a day. I have the old photographic publications--a good many of them--and I want to state to you, gentlemen, that this dry plate you are using to- day is the work of care and experience and experimenting almost beyond our reasonable conception. Men have worked with mind and brain for half a century to bring the art of photography to its present status, and they know of the difficulties that were encountered before its success was ultimately obtained, and they can better appreciate its worth than the novice of to-day who finds his apparatus quickly and easily adjusted, his plates and developers all prepared, with printed directions how to use them. In this respect, photography is far different at the present day from what it was in former times. The dry plate, now so universally used, has required an amount of time and labour, discussion and money upon its preparation that one would hardly believe. In its early stages it was thought that it would be desirable for outdoor photography, but the long exposure that was necessary-- nearly three times longer than the wet plate--made it doubtful whether it ever would be available. . . . . Now I will give you, with your kind permission, a few incidents as they happened day after day. It is a very easy thing to write and talk about photography, but to the man that stands under the skylight it presents a very different attitude. People may not think so, but let them try it. To see thirty and forty different people come up in the course of a day, all different faces--you are expected to make the best view of each face--a face that you never saw before and perhaps never will again, and you are expected intuitively at a moment's notice to make the best picture of that face--it requires an amount of brains that very few have any conception of. And you are asked unreasonable things all the time. I remember once a lady brought three children, two boys and a girl, to my gallery. They came well armed. The little girl had a doll; there was a hobby-horse brought up; and the other boy had a gun. It was evident that the girl was to hold the doll--that was agreed; but which boy was to ride the hobby-horse? That was to be left to my superior judgment. It was not an easy thing to decide, because both wanted to mount the hobby-horse, and after I had decided it, the mother said she did not want this picture taken like all the "doggertypes" were taken. She wanted the girl in the middle of the room, the boy on the hobby-horse over on the other side of the room, and the boy with the gun on the other side of the room. Well, it was a very brilliant idea, but how my quarter-size camera was going to represent them all, I could not tell, and I told the lady that it was impossible, and I tried to explain to her about the concentration of the light, the lenses, and all that sort of thing, but she did not know anything about that; and she finally said to me that she heard I was supposed to be accommodating, and that she had been to three different places and they all told her what I did, and she did not think that I was any better than any of the rest of them. One day a Paddy brought in a small case and he said he wanted a life-size picture put into it. It was a difficult thing in those days to make people understand the difference between a full-length and a life-size, and I told him it was not hold a life-size, and then he said, "well, then, take it with the legs hanging down!" When General Logan was at my place having a sitting, I remember something that occurred. The General was usually a very reserved man. It was seldom that you could get him to talk, but this time he saw on the walls a man he did not like, and he said to me, "I see that you take anybody's picture." "Oh yes," I said, "that is my business. I don't have time to inquire into a man's private character when he comes here for a picture." "Well," he said, "I suppose you would take the devil if he would sit for a picture." and I said, "Undoubtedly we would;" and I added, "I suppose we could run off a good many down around Washington." "Yes," he said, "that is the place to sell them." A man came to me one day; he did not like his picture. Oh, how many didn't like them! He said to me, "My picture looks like the devil." "Well," said I, "I could not say, for I never had a sight at that individual; but sometimes a likeness will run all through families." One morning a lady came into my place, who had two other ladies with her; she ran up to the counter and said, "My picture is twenty years too old, I won't have it, and I want to sit again." The man at the desk passed her right upstairs as soon as possible for another sitting, and as she was passing up, one of the ladies said in an undertone, "Ugly old thing, she looks exactly like it; she only wants to try another dress." There is another incident that I wish to mention right here before I forget it. It is something that never came under my experience, but I heard of it. The man, in pointing his camera at the sitter, knocked it a little on one side, and instead of having the picture in the middle of the plate he got the man away off in the corner, and afterwards scolded the man because he did not sit in the middle. Another old lady came in one day and said she wanted her picture "front face, but a little three-cornered." I recollect one day two ladies bringing in their mother. A sitting then required thirty seconds. We had a side screen, and after the great deal of preliminaries and the daughters' fixing the old lady's cap in a way that they thought would be the most becoming, I raised the cloth and stepped behind the screen, so that she could not see me, because I did not want to disturb her, and at the expiration of thirty seconds I emerged from behind the screen and went to the camera and found the old lady looking out of the window. Here is another one. I wish you could have seen it. A very fine- looking girl came in, with a diminutive specimen of an escort, for a picture, and after I had arranged the position and got my camera all ready, she said to me, "Where must I look?" This little fellow jumped out from behind the screen--he was fully three feet high--and cried out, "Look at me!" and the young lady commenced laughing, and we could not make a sitting of her. Another time an old lady was in the chair--we set her about thirty seconds, I think; when it was about half over I heard some talking in behind there, looked, and she was motioning with her hands and crying out, "Stop it! stop it! I winked!" Dr. Tyng--the old gentleman--was sitting one day, and I said to him, "Doctor, I have now made some sittings front face, now I wish you would turn to the left, because I would like to take some side views." And he turned around and said, "Mr. Bogardus, I am an upright man, and I would not turn to the right or to the left for any one." Then we have had some sad scenes. I remember one day a German woman came in with a bundle and commenced to unroll it, and after she unrolled it I found it was her dead baby. She brought it there to have a picture taken. So that with all the hilarity, as we call it, we have some sad scenes now and then in the practice of the art. There was a very singular remark made to me once in my gallery by a judge who was sitting for a picture, and the gentleman who accompanied the judge there that day said, "Now, Judge, look dignified. Look just as you did the last time you sentenced a man to be hanged." And the judge said, "I don't know about that, for that man was reprieved." But in my experience in the profession I have learned a good many things, and one of the things I have learned is that stout people always want to look thin, and thin people always want to look stout. The older ones don't want the wrinkles to show, and they all want to look a little younger. Many and many a time old ladies have come up to me and would ask me if I could take their picture without showing the wrinkles. "Yes," I would say, "but where will the likeness be?" A photographer is said not to have any mercy. I remember once a certain judge came with his wife to have a picture taken. The judge was suited with his picture, but when we showed the lady her picture she doubted whether she had quite so many wrinkles; and he straightened himself up and said, "My dear, if you had wanted a handsome one you ought to have commenced thirty years ago." That settled it. I did not have to say another word. But there were sometimes very laughable scenes in my gallery. I received one time as many as three different letters from a person whom I had never seen; she was a lady; she wanted to sit for a picture. She had been so unfortunate; she had tried here and there to have a satisfactory picture of herself, and they were all "horrid." Well, of course, I had my misgivings about the matter. What the trouble was I could not tell exactly. So I felt very anxious to see her come on the appointed day. A private carriage rolled up to the door and the dressing-maid jumped out and brought all the paraphernalia in. I suppose she weighed at least two hundred and fifty pounds, was gorgeously decked out in a low-necked dress, skin very nearly the colour of a lobster, and was very particular to tell me that she had had so many bad ones taken of herself. I made up my mind that, with the material I saw before me, it would be a pretty difficult job to suit her, and so, sure enough, after I took the picture she agreed with me exactly, "that it did look horrid." I did not have to say any more. I never got any pay for my picture. In conclusion, I would say, young gentlemen, I am glad to meet you. I am glad there are efforts being made to elevate photography, because I have a high idea of it myself, and I believe it is yet undeveloped. The possibilities of photography are still unknown to us. There are more secrets in it than we have ever solved. People think it is about exhausted, but I think there is a future to it, and I think somebody, with patience, study, and experimenting, will bring that future out. To all interested I say, study well, delve deeply into this great mystery, and some mind will yet evolve from photography results that will cause mankind to look with wonder and astonishment; and, as I have said elsewhere, some name will go ringing down the ages as having added to the pleasures and requisites of a man, and, crowned with the applause of his fellows, his fame shall last as long as time and light continue. ABRAHAM BOGARDUS. * Concluded from page 184. -------------------------------------------------------------- 03-22-98

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