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H5249-19 Photograph and enclosure, daguerreotype, cased, unidentified man in three piece suit, glass / brass / velvet / collodion / wood, photographer not recorded, location not recorded, 1855-1865. Click to enlarge.

Daguerreotype of unidenitifed man

Made 1855-1865
This photograph is significant because it is one of the few surviving ambrotypes with links to Australia. While millions of these ambrotype photographs were produced around the world and many thousands in Australia remarkably few have survived that can be linked to Australian society during the 1850s and 1860s. Although the sitter in the portrait is currently unidentified the museum recognises the importance of maintaining its collection of ambrotypes 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 this photograph.

Geoff Barker, Curatorial, September 2009


Object No.


Object Statement

Photograph and enclosure, daguerreotype, cased, unidentified man in three piece suit, glass / brass / velvet / collodion / wood, photographer not recorded, location not recorded, 1855-1865

Physical Description

A daguerreotype showing a half length portrait of a man photographed seated in a studio setting. The man wears a three piece suit. The man looks directly into the camera, holds his left hand at his temple and rests his right hand in his lap. The daguerreotype is framed in an oval brass mat and sits in a case made from wood that has been covered in leather. The lid to the case is missing, however the metal clasps that would have held the lid closed can still be seen on the side of the case. The original panel of glass over the daguerreotype has been replaced and the original panel stored with the daguerrotype. The daguerreotype is stored in custom-made enclosure with a support.



93 mm


9 mm





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



From the collection of Albert James Perier, photographer

Cite this Object


Daguerreotype of unidenitifed man 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 28 May 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Daguerreotype of unidenitifed man |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=28 May 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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