Eighty-eight years ago a little boy named Ivry Gitlis posed for this photograph. The place was Haifa, Mandatory Palestine; the year 1928 and the world somewhat different from the one we inhabit now, but Ivry is still among us. I am very lucky to have met such a man. Mazel tov Ivry!
Philippos Margaritis and Philibert Perraud
Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens
Daguerreotype, c. 1847
J. Paul Getty Museum
Louis Daguerre’s first experiments with the new process he had discovered look not forward but back, to the aesthetic traditions of the museum and wunderkammer, perfectly illustrating the confluence of arts and sciences that gave birth to the hybrid technique of photography.
Another iconic image of Edgar Allan Poe, looking every inch the ill-starred poet. Taken in Providence, Rhode Island in 1848, it has a rather magnificent case.
Daguerreotype by William Hartshorn, 1848
Brown University Library
Anonymous daguerreotype, May-June 1849
J. Paul Getty Museum
The familiar image of Edgar Allan Poe is vouchsafed us almost entirely through the medium of daguerreotypy. The pioneering American author sat for several portraits in his later life, which coincided with the dominance of Daguerre’s process. The Brown daguerreotype was made at the end of “a tumultuous week which included an overdose of laudanum and a bout of heavy drinking.” Poe died in 1849, just four months after the Getty daguerreotype was taken. Poe was not only the first great American author to attempt to live by writing alone, but the first whose photographic representation made him a visual as well as a literary icon.
Anonymous, 1848, Chester County Historical Society
Samuel J. Miller, 1847/52, Art Institute of Chicago
Anonymous, c. 1855, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Anonymous, c. 1855, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
The great abolitionist leader and statesman Frederick Douglass is claimed as the most-photographed American of the 19th century. He was certainly a frequent visitor to the photographic studios of the day and these are just a few of the magnificent portraits for which he posed throughout a long life in the public eye. Douglass seems to have loved the camera and the feeling was mutual: the majestic figure he cut in images such as these may well have been as influential as his words in asserting the dignity and equality of African-Americans.
Boulevard du Temple, c. 1838-39
One of Daguerre’s few surviving originals. The two figures on the corner of the street, one of whom appears to be having his shoes shined by the other, are believed to be the first humans ever photographed. The crowds thronging this busy Parisian thoroughfare were obliterated in their haste by the long exposure time Daguerre’s early process required.