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Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by bjorke, Jul 25, 2005.
...just curious about them....
Yes I make daguerreotypes, as crazy as that sounds in the 21st century. I have been at daguerreotypy for four years. It is a very difficult, expensive, and toxic process, but the results can be spectacular. I haven't made any in a few months as I "lost" my fume-hood, but I hope to be back at them soon enough. I know about twenty people who make them, many are represented at http://www.newdags.com/. Many of this group--myself included--will also be exhibiting in a group show of contemporary daguerreotypy at the Silver Eye Gallery in Pittsburgh opening in Septmeber, sponsored by the Daguerreian Society.
Anything in particular you wanted to know?
Is it difficult when first learning or does it stay difficult. I've seen the plates at one of the alternative photo places. Thought it might be fun to try.
From what I gather you really need to take a workshop or learn from an expert. Considering you use mercury fumes to sensitize the plates and bromine, not using the proper equipment or technique could have pretty bad consequences. I looked into it once but my wife told me there was no way she would allow anything with mercury, no matter what kind of fuming box was used, into the house while we had children at home.
There is another similar process called bacqueral(?) which does not use mercury or bromine but does not give the same results as true dags.
I have seen quite a few dags in museum collections and a few contemporary works. When seen in person, there is absolutely nothing that can compare to a daguerrotype image. What you see is literally a preserved mirror reflection of the sitter or scene.
Does anybody do this in Minnesota?
There are two ways to develop dags. The "traditional" method uses hot mercury, while the "Becquerel" uses red light usually filtered through a printers screen like rubylith. Both methods can create great looking daguerreotypes, but Mercury developed dags are about 2.5 stops faster and have a more neutral color. Becquerel developed dags are slower and tend to have a color cast, either blue or yellow, depending on development time.
The Becquerel method is much safer, not only because it doesn't use hot mercury, but also because the plates are sensitized only with Iodine. Traditional plates are sensitized with both Iodine and Bromine. Elemental (not tinture) Iodine produces nasty fumes which are corrosive to just about everything except glass and teflon-type plastics. Bromine is even worse. So, even with the Becquerel method a good lab grade fume-hood is needed. Obviously with hot mercury one needs to be very careful were the vents go. A new building was built next to my old studio, and my fume-hood would be venting into somebody's bathroom.
If you are interested read through the details at http://www.newdags.com or check out the old manuals. One is: http://www.bostick-sullivan.com/Technical_papers/AMERICAN HAND BOOK OF THE DAGUERREOTYPE.htm
Jerry Spangoli teaches workshops in Becquerel method at Penland in NC and the Photographers' Formulary in MT. I think Mike Robinson teaches Mercury method in Toronto. I may teach a workshop next summer on the East Coast, but the details are still in the works.
One of my pet projects is about making daguerreotypes using the Bequerel technique, but I have to admit that my dedication comes and goes.
Yes this IS extremely demanding and I think that I wouldn't have gotten so far without the assistance I got.
I think I started about 3 years ago and came across the newdags website to find some contemporary information. I live in Belgium and was more than happy to find out that one of the exhibitants there lives 5 minutes away from my place.
His name is Rene Smets. He's a Da Vinci type of person who builds his own cameras and exells in about every alternative process available.
And he's very kind and encouraging, so I got tons of information and started myself. At this stage I finished building the equipment and recently I succeeded in making my first image at a workshop with Rene, although I messed it up already (probably because of the alternative way of fixing it trough galvanisation).
Rene and I had plans to go "In Depth" this summer because he too can't obtain the same quality as he did before, but last month I bought a house, found a new job and euhm, my wife is pregnant, so here comes another delay.
Anyway, by next summer I will have my darkroom in my own house and I Will continue.
I also plan to publish a sort of cookbook on this matter on my website www.fusion.be as I made imagery of the entire construction process of the equipment involved. (plating, silvering, coating box, and the long road after that to get good coating results etc...)
For instance; I am unable to get my plates well coated in Iodine vapour. I get different circular "zones" with different colours and thus different sensitivities and contrast. I mostly polish the silvered plates with a machine buff. Is it truely neccesary to do so much manual polishing afterwards?
This example just to give you an idea on the numerous parameters involved.
You really need 19th century amounts of time and patience but the result is worth it.
Yes, as DimDim describes, daguerreotypy can be, and often is, a nightmare of inconsistent results. One day will be almost perfect, and the next day no image at all.
I will try to attach a brief summary of my process.
I suspect that the "circular 'zones'" you describe are due to either moisture on the plate before sensitization (Do you heat them before putting them into the iodine? This is very important). It could also be due to not enough iodine fumes in the box or quite possibly your polish.
I don't - but I only reacted to the sentense: .....shoot dags....
can one "shoot" dags?
Oh dear - as an Aussie, I completely got the wrong end of the stick when I read the thread title. "Dags" are either "uncool" people who play the fool or the dirty wool around a sheep's backside. Shooting them has never been high on my list of "dream" assignments .....
that made my day!
(I never shoot any thing - and I can't stand that expression...)
Chuckle. Another Aussie tricked by the title. Bit hard to get a sheep to sign a release form.
Sorry off topic.
Thanks for the PDF. It's good to get another point of view on this matter.
About the stains. The attached image is an extreme example of it.
I don't think moist can be the problem and I do heat my plates with a hairdryer just before I expose them to iodine.
I had problems with insufficient vapour and I upgraded my coating box with a heating element but that turned out too heavy. Plates looked like classic B&W emulsion after only 30 seconds. I have to finetune this as I easily loose the spectral colours and get a greyish blend, even if I only activate the heating for 20 seconds and wait for about a minute to start exposing.
I suspect the problem is that the fumes are too localized; I would then guess that either there isn't enough space in the box for even coating or there aren't enough fumes. Perhaps the iodine is too close to the plate? My box has about 75mm between the iodine and the plate. Is you iodine evenly dispersed through out the box? I have never paid much attention to this, but if the iodine is too close to the plate this may be a possible cause.
I would be very concerned about heating the iodine. I think this is very dangerous and not at all necessary. At a room temperature of 20 degrees, iodine should easily produce enough fumes. Usually I try to "build up" fumes in the box before inserting the plate. Would it be possible to do this with your box? Build up the fumes for 15 minutes (with no heat) and then insert them?
The distance could be a problem. I guess it's only 50 mm away from the plate nuw but to improve this I have to build a new bottom section for my box.
I lost some time because I had no clue about the sort of reaction I had to expect from Iodine. I remember leaving the box out in te sun for hours without any visible reaction. (that was with a dose of bisublimated Iodine - tiny little balls)
Then I used crystals. I expected them to react in mid air but again nothing happened. So I sealed the inner tray of my box and put it in the sun again. You can see the different tints of vapour that I obtained. Can you hint me on how intense it should be?
I know the heating sounds tricky but my box is sealed well and I wear a high quality breathing-mask at all times.