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

The following article appeared in the April 1854 issue of "The Photographic and Fine Art Journal" Vol. 7, No. 4 (April 1854) pg. 111: - - - - - - - - - - - - - EXPRESSION. Rochester, Feb. 14th, 1854 FRIEND SNELLING,--In compliance with your request, made during my late visit to your city, I have been induced to send these few lines for your valuable Journal. There are two things I regret exceedingly: one is, that, as a daguerreotypist, I have done so little for its columns; the other, my inability to write desirable and practical matter. There are many, no doubt, who feel on this subject like myself; but should we all withhold our mites, one object in its publication would be defeated. I have thought that a few general directions for obtaining the natural expression in our portraits would not be out of place in this communication, and will proceed:--Taking it for granted that you have a complete suite of rooms for your business, and some competent person to attend the reception room (I prefer a lady), where all the preliminary business of selecting cases, arranging prices, should be transacted, we will (supposing you have sitters) precede them to the operator's room, where you prepare the plate; here you should be at home, not only with your subjects, but with your light, chemicals, and all pertaining to a speedy accomplishment of your task. After the sitters are announced, the important first impression is to be made (not on the plate), but on the mind. Be careful that it be a favorable one for yourself; you might as well close your rooms at once, if you are a bashful man, or have not command of your temper; a failure here decides your success as a daguerreotypist. Meet your subject as you would an acquaintance, openly, frankly, but not too familiarly; show them to the operator's chair; talk of the weather, latest news, of picture taking or any pleasing subject; at the same time, make such observations on dress, general expression of countenance and eyes as will be guide for obtaining the best result, the first trial. Should the sitters be bashful or diffident, induce them to talk; if notional or obstinate, laugh them out of it good naturedly; humor them if cross, and flatter them if absolutely necessary to bring out a good expression; but show them, in all, that you have command of your temper, a thorough knowledge of your business and their wants. Should the subject take an easy, natural position in the chair, let it be retained; adjust head-rest to this position, and direct the eyes in the proper direction, by placing a flower or picture for the eye to rest upon; then, by asking some question that will induce a reply, watch the moment when the muscles are relaxed and the countenance expressive, to remove the cap, and the result is (if your impression is made, as it should be, in five or ten seconds) a life- like and pleasing expression, without which, be your chemical effects ever so good, your picture is worthless. I deem these remarks, at this advanced stage of the art, of more importance than anything I could say pertaining to chemicals or manipulation of plates, so familiar to every operator. Should you desire it, I will give my process for daguerreotyping children, with whom I am very successful.* E. T. WHITNEY. Our young artists, at least, will undoubtedly thank you for it, as much as ourselves.--Ed. -------------------------------------------------------------- 04-29-98

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