Twenty years ago, shortly after I arrived in Montana, I decided that I wanted to understand photography from the beginning, I wanted to learn to Daguerreotype. I enrolled at the University Of Montana in an independent study collaboratively supervised by the Art and Chemistry departments. There was very little contemporary literature about the photographic process. One article I did find said that it was all but impossible to master. To paraphrase: Every so often someone working in isolation will attempt to figure it out. After spending lots of time and money to laboriously produce a few foggy images, they give up.
So far I must count myself among those so described. After a year of working alone in a lab (on a weekly basis) trying to decipher 150 year-old texts, the best product I created can be seen above. It’s a self portrait, though my face is blurred from moving my head during the ten minute exposure.
If I were to try again, the flow of information is far freer now than it was in 1991. Indeed, there is an online community of modern Daguerrotype makers. Someday, when my schedule is freer, I hope to join them and learn this elusive craft.
I only bring all this up because on Sunday at 1 pm, I will be giving a lecture on the history of photography. Though from any objective standard, I am uniquely unqualified to present such material, hopefully I can provide an entertaining exhibition of what I have learned throughout the years of pursuing my own idiosyncratic interests. If you’d like to attend please let me know. It will be at New Space Center for Photography where I regularly teach. I don’t know how many spaces are left—but it is free to attend. You can also reserve a spot by contacting New Space directly.