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Daguerreotypes from Sean Culver


How did you come to the daguerreotype process?

Making daguerreotypes was the result of following a natural course in my earlier photographic and sculptural work. I had been trained in traditional silver-gelatin printing, which later was translated into sculptural forms by mimicking the images and tones in the prints and also by including the actual prints.

Daguerreotypes have dimensional qualities that are both subtle and obvious which lend themselves to inclusion in sculptural work. Light effectively sculpts a finely polished surface of silver on a microscopic scale, thus rendering an image. This metal plate is then encased in glass, giving the finished daguerreotype a thickness and weight that imbues it with its own presence as a sculptural object. The focus of my sculptural work is creating space where light and surface interact. In this regard, sculpture and photography are the same. The finished pieces are metaphorical of bodies receiving and being transformed by light. This is primarily a spiritual metaphor.


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

Making daguerreotypes is more closely tied to my sculptural work than to my photographic work. I am drawing, planning, making maquettes, and shooting digital reference most of my time. This process leaves me less time to make daguerreotypes, about once a year. Making the images is in service to the to completion of the pre-planned work.

©Sean Culver - boxes

the photographer

Sean Culver

photo :
Mike Robinson

Blue Box Studio
3358 N. Lawndale Ave.
 Chicago, IL, USA

2006 - Focal Points (solo exhibition) Chicago, IL
2005-2006 - Casting A New Light: 19th Century Process & Practices in the 21st Century (Group / Traveling Exhibition)
Curators: Jerry Spagnoli / Alyssa Saloman
2005 - The Daguerreian Niche: Group Show of New Daguerreians, Pittsburgh, PA
2002 / 2003 - Daguerreian Society Symposium, Sacramento CA, Savannah, GA

2001 - 2009: Center for Alternative Photography, NY, NY
University of Texas at San Antonio
Columbia College, Chicago, IL
Bosphorus University Istanbul, Turkey

1992 - 2005 Genis Aci (Turkish Magazine)
‘Living Artists’ (book)
Chicago Tribune (newspaper)
Shelter (magazine)

1986 – BFA School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Born 1962, Galesburg, Illinois, USA

L'article en français





With which equipment do you make these daguerreotypes?

I have a polishing machine designed and built at the Photographer’s Formulary. I made my two buffing paddles, one buckskin and one cotton velvet. I have an early twentieth Century Kodak 5x7 (inches) camera with an uncoated lens designed for shooting glass plates and a mid-century Kodak Graflex for making 4x5s and smaller plates. For the rest I use fuming boxes and a mercury pot designed and built by Mike Robinson. I have it enclosed in a Plexiglass fume hood I built myself with an industrial exhaust fan.


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

Yes. A few years ago I was asked to give a talk at the University of Texas to a class of graduate students. The Professor wanted me to demonstrate how I used technology in my general art-making process. While putting the talk together I surprised myself with how much that actually happened. I titled the talk “How I Use Twenty-first Century technology to Support My Nineteenth Century Working Methods.” I imparted to the students that I use digital photography for shooting reference which informs my sculptural work. Daguerreotypes often end up in those pieces. I use digital photography to shoot “plate” elements for pre-visualizing the sculptural work in the computer, and likewise have pre-visualized the look and feel of both exhibitions and installations. I also use digital photography for ultimately documenting, cataloguing, and presenting the work on the internet and with digital projection.


©Sean Culver - boxes

©Sean Culver



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

The advantage for me is that I get the privilege of hand-making a photographic image and object. Because the process is so unique, I do not perceive a drawback.

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

For me, the possibilities are wide open. I would not want to place any restrictions on such expressions.


©Sean Culver


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

That it is fully expressive in the way that the artist intends.

How do you see the future of daguerreotypes?

I do not see the future of daguerreotypes as being different than any other artistic media. If the work has a challenging nature, thereby respecting it’s audience, it has a chance to be remembered and endure

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

Yes. Approach it with a measure of reverence and gratitude. Consider it a privilege to be given the chance. Fall in love with the process as an end in itself, then allow the image to be a surprising gift in the end.


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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