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A4116 Daguerreotypes (3), metal / glass / wood / leather, photographers unknown, possibly Australia, 1850-1865. Click to enlarge.

Three daguerreotypes

    Although the sitters in these portraits are currently unidentified the museum recognises the importance of maintaining its collection of daguerreotypes as examples of the fashion and early photographic processes in Australia in this period. It is also hoped that research may at some future date identify the sitter in these photographs.

    These photographs are significant because they are three of the few surviving tinted daguerreotypes with links to Australia. While millions of daguerreotypes …


    Object No.


    Object Statement

    Daguerreotypes (3), metal / glass / wood / leather, photographers unknown, possibly Australia, 1850-1865

    Physical Description

    Daguerreotypes (3), metal / glass / wood / leather, photographers unknown




      The daguerreotype was a remarkably complex process. To make a daguerreotype you firstly had to clean a piece of silver plate to a mirror finish using a slurry made from pumice in oil, then give it a number of washings in nitric acid and water to remove the oil residue. Secondly the prepared plate had to be sensitised by exposing it to iodine vapour. Then the sensitised plate was placed in a camera and exposed to light, the exposure time varied according to the time of the day, the season of the year and the weather, and could be from three to thirty minutes. The silver plate was then exposed over heated mercury vapour until an image appeared and lastly it was fixed by placing the plate in a hot solution of common salt or a solution of sodium thiosulfate.

      Keeping a supply of the correct chemicals, making sure the plates and workspace were kept free of dust and ensuring there was a supply of clean water all conspired to limit the practicality of travelling with a camera. This coupled with the lengthy exposure times, which were a result of deficiencies of these early photographic emulsions and the quality of the camera's lens, made the whole process complicated and unwieldy.

      Geoff Barker, Curatorial, September 2009

      Janet Burger, French Daguerreotypes, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1989
      Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, A Concise History of Photography, Thames and Hudson, Germany, 1965
      Rudolf, Kingslake, A History of the Photographic Lens, Academic Press Limited, San Diego, California, 1989
      Naomi Rosenblum, World History of Photography, Abbeville Press, New York, 1984


      Credit Line

      Gift of JR Stewart, 1947

      Acquisition Date

      8 August 1947

      Cite this Object


      Three daguerreotypes 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 20 June 2021, <https://ma.as/179934>


      {{cite web |url=https://ma.as/179934 |title=Three daguerreotypes |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=20 June 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}