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World Photo Day alchemy!

Leading New Zealand specialist retailer Snapshot Cameras (Hamilton) distinguished itself  by arranging a fascinating in-store event to create some excitement around World Photo Day 2012 (August 19).

NZ special contributor Jill Boswell (Snapshot Cameras) reports:

World Photography Day 2012

Founded in 2009 and launched globally in 2010, the World Photography Day project has grown to become a global celebration of photography.

The ‘Daguerreo-van’ arrives at Snapshots Cameras!

Today, we take our photographs for granted. But next time you’re flicking though photos from your last holiday, remember that there was once a time when photography didn’t exist. A time when those precious moments couldn’t be captured, uploaded and shared.

Photography as we know it originates from the invention of the Daguerreotype, a photographic process developed by Joseph Nicèphore Nièpce and Louis Daguerre. On January 9, 1839, The French Academy of Sciences announced the daguerreotype process. A few months later, on August 19, 1839, the French government announced the invention as a gift ‘free to the world’.

Another photographic process, the Calotype, was also invented in 1839 by William Fox Talbot (it was announced in 1841). Together, the invention of both the Daguerreotype and Calotype mark 1839 as the year that photography was invented.

This year Snapshot Cameras invited Alan, a contemporary daguerreotypist living in Waikato, to share World Photography Day with us in Hamilton. Alan brought along a display of salt images, old Daguerreotypes, and recent Daguerreotypes that he has created. The rain held off so staff and photographers were privileged to watch Alan capture and develop two images during the day. Daguerreotypists are very patient people – imagine spending all day to capture two images, one of which was not a saleable print due to chemical contamination!

Snapshots Cameras interior taken on World Photography Day.

The Daguerreotype is a unique photographic image on a solid silver mirror. Both the production processes of the image and its presentation are laborious and intricate. Each silver-coated copper plate must be brought to a high mirror polish and sensitised to light with iodine and bromine. The plate is exposed in camera and developed over heated mercury to reveal the latent image. The emulsionless image sits directly on the surface of the metal sheet and to protect this fragility is sealed behind glass in a leather-covered wooden case. Exposed plates must be developed very soon after exposure so Alan has a darkroom trailer he tows behind his car which he brought to the Snapshot Cameras event.

The finished Daguerreotype photographed and printed on the day.

‘I’ve been in the photographic industry all my life,’ says Graham Boswell, managing director of Snapshot Cameras, ‘and this is the first time I have been privileged to see a Daguerreotype plate exposed and developed’.

The ISO of the plate is so low that portrait customers had to be ‘propped-up’ with a sturdy headstand for the long exposures! (Alan took a photo of the park next door rather than subject any of us to the head-stand.)

The piece of memorabilia that fascinated Graham most was a detailed cartoon of people queuing for their photograph and portrait artists hanging themselves because the new-fangled photograph was putting them out of business!

Another customer lent Snapshot Cameras their collection of Dufay colour transparencies and viewer. Graham is a collector of all things photographic and had never seen anything like these when the customer first brought them in to be scanned – they are a colour transparency with silvering on one side.

(Dufaycolor film consisted of a transparent, non-inflammable base on which was printed a very fine transparent colour pattern consisting of alternating blue and green squares and red lines. This pattern was called the ‘réseau‘ and the complete pattern of 3 colours was reproduced 20 to 23 times per mm.

On top of the réseau was a coating of high sensitivity panchromatic emulsion.The film was exposed through the base so that light passed through the colour réseau before reaching the emulsion. In this way the image was broken up into minute areas representing the red, green and blue components of the subject.)

For more pictures of Snapshot Cameras World Photography Day, click here…And for the video, click here!

– Jill Boswell

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