Contemporary Daguerreotype Portraits
by Tyler Suppha-Atthasitt
Reception: Sat, Nov 23, 4–5:30pm
I have forgone the use of digital photography for the 19th century Daguerreotype process; the first commercially viable means of portrait photography announced to the world in 1839, France. It is the production of both a positive and negative image on a mirror polished plate of silver. Unlike conventional silver processes, the image floats upon the plate surface, like steam on glass, and is fragile enough to be wiped away by the slightest touch, yet when properly sealed is incredibly archival. They are unique, non-replicable images resulting from the in-camera plate directly receiving the light reflected from the subject.
I regard my portraits as literal descriptions of the experience rather than an effort at conveying character or essence. The experience, which Roland Barthes once referred to as a “mini death”, is a recognition which has been lost with instantaneous photography. Under the lengthy exposure required by the daguerreotype process, sitters are subject to a prolonged awareness of being transformed from a subject to an image-object. Being placed under the continuous scrutiny of the lens puts one in a vulnerable position, forces self reflection, a meditative contemplation which contributes to the elegiac quality of the plates.
I photograph from an intimate point of view, focusing mostly on the head and shoulders. Sitters are placed in a relaxed position within an isolated environment to minimize distraction. I remove myself to ensure the interaction between camera and subject remains true throughout the exposure, typically 1.5 to 2 minutes, resulting in a more private, introspective portrayal. In the more confrontational images, where the eyes of the sitter engage the viewer directly, the portrayed examine their own image being reflected in the lens of the camera. The viewer thus gazes into eyes of those gazing at themselves.
My daguerreotypes offer no conclusions about the nature of being. They are merely reflections of light, surface, and time, a unique record of process. These “magic mirrors” are the lasting impressions of my acquaintances. I photograph them intimately, with sincerity, the way I wish to remember them.
Tyler Suppha-Atthasitt was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1976. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Weber State University in 2005. He has explored both traditional and non-traditional forms of photography throughout his career, his current interest being the daguerreotype process. His works have shown in several exhibitions including the “Contemporary Daguerreotype Exhibition” at Gallery Walk at Terminus in Atlanta, GA, “Image/Object: Contemporary Daguerreotypes” at The Center for Alternative Photography in New York, NY, and “Heritages De Daguerre: Exhibition of International Contemporary Daguerreotypes” at in Bry-sur-Marne, France. Tyler Suppha-Atthasitt currently lives and works in Ogden, Ut.
Location: Main Library, Level 4 Gallery at Library Square
Contact Information: (801) 524-8200