Courageous sitters

Figure 1 – The first exposure table for daguereotypists 1844, from the George Eastman house.

How many of us have had the experience of sitting in the dentist’s chair while the dentist injects Novacaine into your gum trying desperately not to swallow while the needle is inside your flesh. Those seconds seem like forever. With this background I have looked ever so sympathetically at old daguereotypes imagining the sitters enduring what I assumed where seconds of exposure. Well apparently not, and for me the facts are even more profound. I came across the table of Figure 1 this morning of “the first exposure table.” It is from the George Eastman House and has its origin in tables first published by C. F. Albanus in 1844 – a practical guide for daguereotypists.

Under the absolute best conditions you had to sit absolutely still for six or seven minutes and in the worst, grueling, case scenario as much as an hour! These early sitters were truly courageous.


This entry was posted in History of Photography.