Cindy Sherman by Chuck Close
from A Couple of Ways of Doing Something (Aperture 2006)

Chuck Close:
A Couple of Ways of Doing Something
Photographs by Chuck Close
Poems by Bob Holman
Interview with Chuck Close and Bob Holman by Lyle Rexer
Clothbound, 22 tritone images
56 Pages, 11.375″ X 14.875″
Aperture 2006

Excerpt from an interview by Lyle Rexer in the book:

Rexer: “And daguerreotypes are unforgiving. In the nineteenth century there were reams written about the fact that if you decided to have a daguerreotype made, you took your self-image in your hands, because nothing would be left out.”

Close: “It was more warts-and-all than any other process. Because it’s so red-sensitive, any marks, any flaws are heightened. You have to be pretty comfortable in your skin, and vanity goes out the window. And it’s also physically painful. A normal daguerreotype is a more than two-minute exposure. We’ve made it instant photography by having a billion foot-candles of light go off all at once, and that’s very painful. The flashes are so intense your eyes slam shut. It’s like having an ice pick shoved in your eyeball. You can smell hair burning… Each one of these people who lent me their image with no control over how it’s going to come out, in this act of incredible generosity, had to put away whatever self-image they had of how they looked and accept this other image as being them. That goes beyond generosity.”


“If a man had handed a metallic speculum to Democritus of Abdera, and told him to look at his face in it while his heart was beating thirty or forty times, promising that one of the films his face was shedding should stick there, so that neither he, nor it, nor anybody should forget what manner of man he was, the Laughing Philosopher would probably have vindicated his claim to his title by an explosion that would have astonished the speaker.

This is just what the Daguerreotype has done. It has fixed the most fleeting of our illusions, that which the apostle and the philosopher and the poet have alike used as the type of instability and unreality. The photograph has completed the triumph, by making a sheet of paper reflect images like a mirror and hold them as a picture.

This triumph of human ingenuity is the most audacious, remote, improbable, incredible,–the one that would seem least likely to be regained, if all traces of it were lost, of all the discoveries man has made. It has become such an everyday matter with us, that we forget its miraculous nature, as we forget that of the sun itself, to which we owe the creations of our new art. Yet in all the prophecies of dreaming enthusiasts, in all the random guesses of the future conquests over matter, we do not remember any prediction of such an inconceivable wonder, as our neighbor round the corner, or the proprietor of the small house on wheels, standing on the village common, will furnish any of us for the most painfully slender remuneration. No Century of Inventions includes this among its possibilities. Nothing but the vision of a Laputan, who passed his days in extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, could have reached such a height of delirium as to rave about the time when a man should paint his miniature by looking at a blank tablet, and a multitudinous wilderness of forest foliage or an endless Babel of roofs and spires stamp itself, in a moment, so faithfully and so minutely, that one may creep over the surface of the picture with his microscope and find every leaf perfect, or read the letters of distant signs, and see what was the play at the “Variétés” or the “Victoria,” on the evening of the day when it was taken, just as he would sweep the real view with a spy-glass to explore all that it contains.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes

The Stereoscope and the Stereograph
The Atlantic Monthly 3 (June 1859), pp. 738-48.


Daguerre, Atelier, 1837, daguerreotype


Born in 1787, Daguerre was apprenticed to an architect in his hometown of Corneilles-en-Parisis. In 1804 in Paris, he served in the studio of Degotti, a stage designer, and later assisted the painter of panoramas Prevost. Daguerre attained the post of stage designer at the Opera around 1819. He conceived and built the Diorama around 1822, offering staged illusionist entertainment that combined realistic painting and moving light effects. The constant use of the camera obscura to create his large scale paintings led to the idea of fixing the images of the optical apparatus and to his collaboration with Niepce that would result, after the dead of his collaborator and creator of the first photograph, in the invention of the daguerreotype.

Jean-Baptiste Sabatier-Blot (French, 1801–1881)
Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, 1844
Daguerreotype; 14.3 x 11.7 cm (5 5/8 x 4 5/8 in.)
George Eastman House, Rochester


“The Dawn of Photography: French Daguerreotypes, 1839–1855” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from September 23, 2003 through January 4, 2004, was the first survey of key monuments from photography’s earliest moments, when its pioneers used the invention for a broad spectrum of artistic, scientific, and documentary purposes.
Philippe de Montebello, director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, commented: “The invention of the daguerreotype—the earliest photographic process—forever altered the way we see and understand our world. No invention since Gutenberg’s movable type had so changed the transmission of knowledge and culture, and none would have so great an impact again until the informational revolution of the late twentieth century.”


the exhibition site has also a video animation on the Daguerreotype process
The Daguerreotype Process (4 minutes, silent)
Courtesy of Py-Films, Boulogne-Billancourt, and the Musée des Arts et Métiers, Paris


Baron Jean-Baptiste Louis Gros (French, 1793–1870)
View of the East Facade of the Propylaea on the Acropolis, Athens, May–June, 1850
Daguerreotype; 14.9 x 20 cm (5 7/8 x 7 7/8 in.)
Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal

From the exhibition The Dawn of Photography: French Daguerreotypes, 1839–1855
September 23, 2003–January 4, 2004
Drawings, Prints, and Photographs Galleries, The Howard Gilman Gallery, 2nd floor
Metropolitan Museum, New York

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