Thursday, June 11, 2015
He has been dust for well over a century, but his image still shines in the ephemeral reflection from a silver-plated sheet of copper.
This is a daguerreotype, an image captured by the first commercially successful photographic process. The technical details were made public in 1839, and daguerreotypy became a craze. For the first time in history, average people could afford to have their portraits made.
But by the time of the American Civil War (AKA “The Late Unpleasantness”), the process had largely been displaced by newer, less costly technologies. We can be reasonably certain, therefore, that this photograph was made sometime in the span between 1840-1860.
The subject is unknown. Who was he? What was he like? We can only speculate. Yet there is, at least, more than a weathered, semi-illegible tombstone to mark his brief passage on Earth. There is a photograph.