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Daguerre's system.

Daguerre's system produced single positive pictures onto copper plate coated with silver. The plate was placed in the back of the camera which was essentially a camera obscura with a closed back. Once exposed the plate was developed over, of all things, mercury vapour! I don't actually have any cameras from this period, but if I did - even my daft self would not try recreating that particular process. Every picture was, therefore, an original. Back in those days the inventor made his income by licensing his patented idea. The early photographers having bought the license, would have to obtain (or make) their camera, manufacture their own plates, acquire chemistry, organise sittings and process the results themselves. Although the license wasn't cheap the process achieved some popularity. The resulting picture was on the coated plate, the highlights being rendered by a white residue that coated the exposed parts to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the amount of light received. To view the image you have to tilt the picture until the reflective shadow areas of the plate show dark. Perhaps some of you are lucky enough to have one or two handed down, these pictures are called Daguerreotypes.

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