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Marcus Root, "Qualifications of a First-Class Daguerreotypist"
Photographic Art-Journal, August 1853

Mr. Editor.—I have already protested in your Journal, against the erroneous notions entertained by many, both as to the rank, the character, and the requirements of the heliographic art, and especially as to the qualities and accomplishments essential to a first-class practitioner of the art. And since I regard this topic, as of immense importance to the interests of heliography, I would in the present article enlarge still further upon it, and introduce some illustrations, which may serve to confirm the truth of my views.…

In the daguerrean room, as everywhere else, may be found two classes of men, the artists and the mere mechanics. In all or most respects, save two or three, the latter may equal or even surpass the former. The solar pencil will, of course, transcribe exactly the subject submitted to in the one case, as in the other, and in the getting up of the plates and other processes whether manual or chemical, the mechanic may transcend the artist. But when we come to expression to those items, which give the semblance of life, instead of a mere shadow of life; and especially to those particulars which must need be observed in order, that the subject may look his best and highest; here at once flashes out the difference—an immeasurable difference—between these two classes of men. Between their productions the antagonism is as great, as between the sound and its echo, between a living man and the ghost of a man. No stream can rise higher than its fountain. The mechanic is the putter-together of dead materials, and his work must be and cannot but be dead.. The artist is a creator and into his work he breathes the "breath of life" and it "becomes a living soul." Mrs. Fanny Kemble, once looking at a portrait by one of our widely-celebrated artists, remarked, "Mr.— paints a most beautiful picture—the shape and coloring of all the various parts are exquisitely done,—but it requires Sir Thomas Lawrence to put the soul in the eyes." An apt illustration of what I have said above.

This distinction applies universally, nor does it matter whether the pencil or the camera be the instrumentality employed. The time is not far distant I suspect, when the perfect handling of the camera will be acknowledged as difficult, as that of the camel's hair pencil.…

Every day's experience and observation deepen my conviction, that the daguerreotype, small as is the honor hitherto attached to it, and disgraced as it has been by egotistic quacks and dullards of every grade, is nevertheless a sphere, wherein the loftiest and most expansive of artistic geniuses, a Michael Angelo and a Raphael, a Titian, a Rubens and a Rembrandt might find amplest scope for the exercise of their powers. And when heliography assumes its rightful place, as one among the noblest of the Fine Arts, imperatively demanding, in its practice, high genius, various culture and manifold accomplishment, then all mere mechanical operators will by the general voice be excluded from the profession, and the genuine heliographist will be a "a power among men," and like the eminent painter or sculptor will be nigh overwhelmed with honors and patronage. I repeat, then, in slightly varied phrase, that no one is fit for a daguerreotypist or should presume to attempt the practice of the art who has not the genius for becoming, if not a preeminent, at least a highly respectable painter.…

—M.A. Root. Phila., 140 Chestnut St.,

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