The Power Of A Photograph (before instagram)

A man who knew Thomas Jefferson

Razib Khan of Wired recently blogged about this daguerreotype of John Quincy Adams taken in the 1840’s, noting that the photograph is of poor quality and lacking in color. Khan subtly suggests an observation, that our eyes have become accustomed to refinement of the photograph over time. Today we can easily manipulate an image at the touch of a button through applications like instagram, but does making an image look special mean it’s a photograph? Unlike digital images, this photo materializes the private modality that has been lost with the advent of social applications, it emits power through the chemical process of its time, and natural light transforms the image of Adams into a portrait. “I am a man of reserved, cold, austere and forbidding manners,” John Adams said in his diary. This information has not been lost or overly manipulated. What we see is the beauty that is…time captured and a portrait of an austere man who was born in 1767.

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