Monday, May 6, 2013

Newton's Photograph

Newton Tuttle photograph taken in Connecticut c1840s.

 Mother has among her treasures an early photograph of Newton Tuttle. The little blue trunk in which it was stored was one of the few items in my parent's living room which survived the fire. I don't underestimate this tender mercy. While posting a portion of his diaries and journals it would be appropriate to include a copy of this portrait, I concluded. After a bit of experimentation and research I have learned that making a copy of a daguerreotype photograph is not as easy as one would think. In this digital age can't everything be scanned, I thought? For all the advantages of digital scanners, I found that a daguerreotype must be reproduced by photography because the protective glass distorts or darkens the image to an impossible degree.

"Daguerreotypes (1840-1855) are on polished silver so they are very reflective, like a mirror. Since they are on silver and subject to tarnish, daguerreotypes were put behind glass and sealed with paper tape so air cannot tarnish the plate (there often is some tarnish around the edges of the picture). This was then put into a small hinged case, similar to a woman's compact. But, the easiest way to tell if you have a daguerreotype is to see if it has that reflection, just like a mirror. You have to tilt it back and forth to see the image." (

Taken directly angled the reflection of the camera is reflected.

Each time I tried to take a snapshot head on, I captured a reflection of my own camera superimposed on the portrait. Internet searches warned against removing the protective glass. "The most difficult part in reproducing daguerreotypes is keeping the mirror-like reflection down so you don't see the camera being reflected (on ambrotypes and tintypes this is not as much of a problem). The simplest way is to take a piece of cardstock about 10" square, cover it with black velvet or velveteen and then cut out a hole in the center to stick the lens through. This is assuming you have a copystand or at least a tripod, as well as a close-up lens." (

Not being skilled in the art of photography, I do not have the equipment or expertise to attempt the task. Consequently I had to resort to taking the picture at an extreme angle. Hopefully soon I will be able to find an archivist who can recommend a photographer with the abilities needed. I don't think we need a conservator because it seems in pristine condition. Meanwhile, enjoy this daguerreotype of Newton Tuttle taken in Connecticut before he left to join the Saints of the Church of Jesus Christ in the west. This is how he looked as he, his wife and young daughter began the arduous journey.

If using a copy of this picture it will be necessary to include attribution.

1 comment:

  1. Is Inkley's still around? They used to do that kind of specialized photography. Love the photo--even on the angle!