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J.H. Fitzgibbon, "Daguerreotyping"
Western Journal and Civilian, 1851

Proud indeed must that man be, who, while yet an inhabitant of earth, finds his fame encircling the habitable globe. With what exquisite feelings of pleasure must be the consciousness that the civilized world are now practicing that beautiful art of which he was the happy discoverer, and to know that every time the sun rises the name of Daguerre is written:

"With a pencil of light"

on countless myriads of tablets in both hemispheres. And, proud may we be who find the enchanter's wand placed within our own grasp, that we too, can command the sun to stand still, and find him obeying our slightest wish, ministering to our fondest loves, and holiest affections, with an alacrity almost beyond the power of comprehension.

Onward as has been the march of this wonderful art,—if we may give such a term to the skilful management of science,—since its first discovery by the great Frenchman and more especially since its introduction to this progressive country, until we may now say it is perfect,* where each operator tries to surpass his brother in producing the finest effect on the polished surface of the silver plate, yet there are many,—it is to be regretted,—who seem to care but little what kind of a picture they produce, so long as they gratify their mercenary desire to accumulate the almighty dollar. That such professors of the art exist at all is more owing to the fault of the community in which they live, than any other cause. Most persons like to have cheap pictures (not likenesses) and when it is too late, they find to their cost, they have paid too dear for them, for one half of those so taken have to be taken over again by more competent and skilful operators. Few persons in the present day are aware how their resemblances are transferred to the surface of the metallic plate. And few, very few, of the travelling operators are sufficiently educated in the science of their art to explain the why and the wherefore of the appearance of the picture, or even the nature or effect of the chemical agents they employ. The cause of all this ignorance on such subjects arises from the fact that many young men suddenly captivated with a love for the Fine Arts, take it into their heads that they are destined to make a figure, or figures in the world, consequently their genius must no longer be hidden under a bushel, but expand its wings in a higher intellectual atmospheric region. Or, what is still more likely, they are lured into this pursuit by a prospect of an easy and rapid accumulation of money. Instantly they repair to some cheap Daguerrean establishment or perhaps apply to an itinerant professor, and for ten, twenty, or thirty dollars are reguarly manufactured in the short space of from three to six days, into full-bred professors of the photographic art. Is it then to be wondered at that we find so many awful, ghost-like looking shadows poured out upon the world by a host of ignorant pretenders? Not at all!

If a person wishes to become acquainted with the Daguerrean art, instead of going to a mere tyro, he ought to place himself under the tuition of an operator of established reputation, one who is permanently located in some city and well known to his neighbors as a man of skill and experience in his profession. Such a man must be well paid for the knowledge he imparts, and the pupil ought to spend at least three months with him, if he is desirous to become familiar with the whole process of Daguerreotyping in all its present perfection.…

Nature, copying nature by nature's hand, is so wonderful in its simplicity, that through that very simplicity it becomes difficult of comprehension to some operators, for they will so veil and mystify it to those who know nothing of the operations of science, as to make them believe that they produce pictures by the powers of parafarageraramus, as McAllister does his tricks of legerdemain.

As this interesting art is not generally known in the great West, it may not be uninteresting to the readers of the Western Journal to hear a few remarks upon the subject and of the materials through whose agency the Daguerreotypes are produced.…

To succeed in this as in any other business, you must pay strict attention to it and never trust to chance but be ready at all times to operate, have every thing in order and when a sitter comes to have his likeness taken, go to work regardless of the weather, be prepared for all kinds of weather, and let me tell you some of the best pictures are frequently taken in wet and cloudy weather. Be very particular how you pose your sitters, as the painters term the position they give to the subject; let them always assume the easiest and most natural position possible, for on this, in a great measure, depends the beauty of the daguerreotype, and, never for one moment think of letting a picture leave your gallery that has no shadow or out-line to the features, as such productions, although they may please some sitters because copied from themselves, yet they will reflect no credit on either the art or the artist.


 

* Mr. L.L. Hill of the State of New York, has announced to the world that he has discovered a method of taking pictures in natural colors, with all the perfection of nature herself.


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