Wednesday, January 7, 2009

daguerreotype envy

i didn't take these photos (as if you couldn't tell by how incredible they are)
chuck close did.
they are a series of daguerreotypes that he did for a collaborative poetry/photography portfolio called a couple of ways of doing something. i've been in awe of that book and of those images since i first saw them a year or so ago (it's in the byu library, you should go check it out if you haven't seen it).

i would love to try doing daguerreotype. i was thinking that maybe i would try it for the alternative class, but its a very very very time intensive and expensive process, so i'm not sure i'll tackle it this semester. i wish i could though.

daguerreotype is at the very root of photography, and some might argue that things haven't gotten any better than they were then. they're just incredibly rich images.

what does it take to make a daguerreotype, you ask?
here's what i've gathered from my research:

1. have copper plates cut. the size of the plates is the size the image will be. i would start with 4x5, but i assume chuck close's were giant, as everything he does is giant.
2. send them off to somewhere in new mexico to have them silver coated.
3. buff them
4. sensitize them with iodine vapors in a special chamber for 8 to 10 hours, checking on them frequently until they're the right color.
5. put them in a view camera and take the photos
6. develop and fix the plates- this is a very delicate process, as the image on the plate can easily be ruined.
7. dry the plates
8. gold tone the plates
9. cover the plates with glass to keep them from oxidizing

then if you're chuck close, you scan them and put them in a beautiful book for all the world to see.

someday i'll do the same.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

So these daguerreotypes were made by Jerry Spagnoli for Chuck Close, or you could say the shots were at his direction. Polished to a mirror like finish they are sensitized with Iodine and bromine vapours, for seconds or minutes, not hours. The plates are developed over mercury vapours and are gilded before drying. For more info see