Tag Archives: photos

Daguerreotypes

Ralph Waldo Emerson, a daguerreotype

I attended a short lecture tonight at the Mount Auburn cemetary in Cambridge, MA on – of all things – daguerreotype.  Not your usual bill of fare for a Thursday night, but hey, it was really interesting.

The speaker was Melissa Banta who is the Program Officer for the Harvard University Library.  Apparently, Harvard has a substantial collection of daguerreotypes – more than 3,500 of them – and they are all reproduced digitally in an impressive, searchable web site freely available to the public.

But what is a daguerreotype?  Well, thanks to Melissa, I can now answer that. Daguerreotypes were the first photographic process – invented by Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre (pronounced “Dagair”), a French inventor (1787 – 1851), who also, on a side-note, came up with the concept of the diorama.  The chemistry that Daguerre and his colleagues figured out is to expose silver-coated copper plates to iodine, obtaining silver iodide in the process.  Then the plates are exposed to light for several minutes, then coated with mercury vapor which amalgamated the mercury with the silver and, finally, the image is fixed with salt water.  The image was then, typically housed under glass, framed and put inside a leather-bound case (a sort of portfolio folder), as you can see in the example at the top of Ralph Waldo Emerson (one from the Harvard Collection).  I just love the detail in that image – the shadows and contrast – not to mention Emerson’s winning smile.

Apparently, Daguerre (and others) had figured out how to make an image using these chemicals, but it wasn’t until he figured out how to fix them (in 1837) that the “daguerreotype” (the process) was born.

A little sniffing around online pulls up all sorts of intriguing resources.  For instance, The Daguerreian Society (who knew?) and the fact that, after Louis Daguerre published his manual on how to create the plates, the phenomenon known as “daguerreomania” erupted in England and France.

But here’s what I found totally fascinating.  Unlike traditional photographs that pixellate and degrade as you magnify them, daguerreotype get more precise the closer you get.  They are perfect recreations of the image, in all of its astonishing detail.

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Digital Photos and Photo Tools

With digital cameras so reasonably priced and a digital camera in nearly every cell phone, it’s becoming more reasonable to include student-generated images into your teaching/learning plans.  Capturing, editing, producing, and mashing up images can be a great way to engage students – and, depending on the way you set it up, an intriguing performance of understanding.

With that in mind, here are a few free, online photo tools and resources to add into the mix:

Flickr:  Of course.  The mother of online photo sharing sites.  But what you might not know is that Flickr has a pretty impressive tools collection – make sets, groups, put photos on a map.  Also, there’s a cheerful number of third-party flickr tools to investigate that extend Flickr’s usefulness.

SlideFlickr: Create and embed slideshows of Flickr images.

Five-Card Flickr: Nice creativity tool – create a story out of five flickr images that you pick.

Cooliris:  A very slick photo storage, browsing, and sharing application.  Displays as a 3D wall in your browser. It’s free, but does require a download.

fotoflexer:  Browser-based image editor, with 2GB storage.

PhotoFunia:  Online photo editing tool allows you to upload an image and apply effects.

Bubblesnaps or Photo Balloon Engine:  Add speech bubbles to photographs.

Cloudcanvas:  With paint, brushes, textures, primitive shapes, layers, filters, and page layout options, anyone can create online digital paintings.

Blabberize:  Add lips and a moving mouth to any photo, record some speech, and your photos can talk.

Create a Magazine Cover:  With this tool, you can custom-create a magazine cover, using your own, uploaded image.

Fliptrack:  Create online slide shows and invite people to view, add to it, edit photos or effects  -while the original stays in tact.  Nice opportunity for online collaboration using images.

GICKR:  Create an animated GIF from an uploaded photo.

Animoto:  One of my all-time favs.  Upload your photos, pick a song from their library (or upload your own), press a button and you have an special effects “short” made of your images.

Skitch:  Make and modify screen shots.  Very handy for creating student instructions for getting into an online tutorial or web site.

Spell with Flickr:  you can write text in letters based off Flickr images with this.

Picsearch:  Powerful photo search engine that allows you to specify interesting particulars.

Histografica:  Find historical pictures of places around the world.

Geotag Your Photos:  Here’s an article explaining how to geotag your images with Google Maps.

PicResize:  Crop and resize any uploaded image.

Have fun – and share what you figured out!

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