D.C. Exhibition Focuses On Early Photography

BY LOUIS MARROQUIN — Fall 2018

s part of its 50th anniversary celebration, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., shines the spotlight on daguerreotypes, the first commercially used form of photography. On view at the museum through June 2, “Daguerreotypes: Five Decades of Collecting” brings together 13 one-of-a-kind portraits of influential Americans from the mid-1800s.

French artist Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre introduced daguerreotypes — direct-positive images produced on a sensitized plate of silver-clad copper — in 1839. American artists saw the commercial possibilities of this experimental process, which quickly became the era’s go-to method for portrait photography.

The exhibition represents works the museum has collected over the past 50 years, beginning with the gallery’s first daguerreotype acquisition in 1965: a portrait of poet and artist Thomas Buchanan Read. Other subjects include showman P.T. Barnum with Tom Thumb, activist Dorothea Dix, and writer Henry David Thoreau. 202-633-1000; npg.si.edu

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