A MARRIED COUPLE......AND THEIR HANDS
I had no intention of posting any of my "DAGS", but when going through my old Japan stuff for more pics to post on Flickr, this was in the box ! So...what the heck....here it is.
Although it is over 150 years old, and patina'd with age (arty in its own way), nothing really mattered to me about it except for.... their hands.
Even in their somber pose that stripped them of seeming emotion --- a possible result or requirement of the long exposure --- I look at the remarkable folded hands of this long-gone and nameless couple, independently sharing the same body language, even to their sleeved extremities.
Was this a marriage of so-called kindred spirits, brought together by some mutual romantic attraction (that might have fizzled out after the honeymoon?), or simply one of practical convenience or family pressure that even today might possibly form the basis of most marriages in the world.
Such thoughts are part of any vain speculations that comes with digging through boxes of old photos, and seeing the faces of those anonymous souls who have passed on long ago.
This is a ca.1850 Daguerreotype image. It's a photograph made directly on a highly buffed layer of silver that had first been fumed with iodine, then exposed in the camera, and developed with heated Mercury fumes (DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!)
The dark parts are the relatively UNEXPOSED buffed silver, and the relatively white areas are a rough growth of silver amalgam where the light EXPOSED the plate. The whiteness was formerly thought to be Mercury deposits, but we now know it is microscopic growths of a kind of silver amalgam raised up on the surface -- a strange reaction caused by the Mercury fumes, but leaving no Mercury behind when the image is finished.
No Negative. No Paper. No multiple-prints. Every one coming out of the camera is one of a kind. And every image is backwards --- reversed left for right --- unless the photographer took the picture while aiming at you in a 45-degree first-surface mirror mounted in front of the lens......which some of them actually did.
I wish I could post some nice Daguerreotypes of Japanese subjects. However, there are less then 20 of them known in the entire world, and I do not own one !
The actual image when held in the hands does not look exactly like the scanned image above. It is more like a mirror with an image printed on it.
Scans on your computer screen, and reproductions in books do not do them justice. They are best seen and appreciated (and loved) right in the hand, right in front of your eyes.
After 40 years of doing photography around the world as both an amateur and professional, my three favorite kinds of photographs remain these : The DAGUERREOTYPE, the SALT PRINT, and the STEREOVIEW.