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the photographer

Eric Mertens is a California-based artist with a focus on daguerreotype photography. After training as a laser technologist, Eric worked in a government laboratory for four years before enrolling in the photography program at California College of the Arts (CCA). In his fourth year he developed an interest in large-format photography and alternative processes. After graduation he studied daguerreotype technique with Mike Robinson in Toronto. Since 2002 Eric has run his own studio focusing on portraiture and has also exhibited in several galleries. He also hand-builds daguerreotype equipment that is used in his studio as well as by other photographers. Samples of Eric’s work can be seen at www.thedaglab.com




L'article en français


Daguerreotypes from
Eric Mertens

How did you come to the daguerreotype process?

During my final year at California College of the Arts I began experimenting with alternative processes to connect more with the physical aspects of photography. I loved the thrill of the physical process of working with wet-plate collodion, but I was looking for more. The obvious next step for me was daguerreotypy.

In 2003 I took a trip to Toronto to see Mike Robinson for a daguerreotype tutorial. That’s really where it started for me.

Which proportion of your time as a photographer do you devote to the daguerreotype process?

I currently devote 100% of my time to daguerreotypy with a portrait studio in my home. I am not really interested in other techniques, nor do I have the equipment for them.

With which equipment do you make these daguerreotypes?

Most of my work is shot with an 8x10 Deardorff. I have a 4x5 Bush view camera as well as a Lewis Daguerrian camera replica, all of which accommodate new and old lenses. My sensitizing boxes and mercury pot are from Century Darkroom. I was actually trained as a laser technologist and I’m pretty handy, so I build all of the rest of the equipment myself.

Have you established any bridges between your practice as a daguerreotypist and digital photography?

To put it simply – no. I have yet to find a way to utilize digital photography in a way to actually make the daguerreotype process easier or better. Other than scanning my daguerreotypes, I don’t really use digital technology at all. If it wasn’t invented in the 19th century, I don’t need it!

What are the advantages and drawbacks of the daguerreotype as compared to other photographic processes?

Aside from its unmatchable detail and beauty, a daguerreotype is a one-of-a-kind object. To me that is a rarity in photography, especially in the digital age.

The main drawbacks are that it’s hard to carry the camera around to different locations, and it’s almost impossible to get someone to sit completely still for 17 to 25 seconds.

Do you think that certain subjects are particularly suitable for daguerreotypes?

I’ve tended to focus on portraiture. I’ve photographed a lot of nudes, and I am currently working on a series called “working” that focuses on people doing their jobs. It’s probably not so good for photographing an auto race.

What are the main features of a good daguerreotype in your opinion?

Technical features would be good contrast with clear blacks, strong white highlights with a warm hue to them and a crisp clarity overall. But of course this can all go out the window depending on the subject matter. I don’t think there is a single formula for all daguerreotypes.

How do you see the future of daguerreotypes?

Funny question – asking about the future of a technique that’s been outmoded for over a century! It’s a process that has for the most part already been perfected and there is not much room left for any technological improvements. So the process itself will pretty much stay the same as it has for over 160 years. There may be more of an interest in practicing daguerreotypy as society realizes the importance of preserving and protecting the remaining originals, but it will still be limited to a small group of people patient enough to make it work. In the age of digital cameras, daguerreotypes are pretty far removed from the mainstream of photography.

Would you have any advice to young photographers wishing to make daguerreotypes?

Be aware that the process is often more important than the final product. It’s so labor-intensive that you may spend hours working on a single picture. It’s important to take good notes at every step and to refuse to compromise. And never feel like you have mastered the process because you will be reminded that you haven’t.


voir également sur la daguerréotypie :
daguerreotypes de sean culver
eric-mertens : daguerréotypes
jerry spagnoli : daguerréotypes
marc kereun : daguerréotypes
marc kereun : l'exposition de daguerréotypes contemporains de Bry sur Marne
marc kereun : technique du daguerréotype
marinus j. ortelee : daguerréotypes
patrick bailly-maitre-grand : daguerréotypes
reproduire pour exposer
rob mcelroy : daguerréotypes



dernière modification de cet article : 2009




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