Issue #4  8/15/1999
160th Anniversary Of Photography's 1st Media Event

By Alex Novak

On August 20, 1839 Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre and his PR flack, scientist Francois Arago, presented the world (and, in particular, the French Academy of Sciences) with its first photographic media event.  The wily Daguerre wangled an annuity for himself from the French government in exchange for "giving" the process to the world at large, with the major exception being the despised British, who still had to pay licensing fees to Daguerre.  The announcement prompted William Henry Fox Talbot to hurriedly announce his own more comprehensive solution, heralding the era of the photographic image.  It also prompted independent inventor Hippolyte Bayard to take a picture of himself as having committed suicide, because of the French governments unconcern for HIS photographic process, which was paper based, but unlike Talbot's, was a direct positive process.  Bayard was actually the first person to actually exhibit photographic images.  More on that self-portrait and others in the Jammes sale story below.

William Becker's American Museum of Photography (www.photographymuseum.com) marked this 160th anniversary of photography's birth with a special Internet Event.  Its usually staid home page took on a festive look--complete with an engraving of photography inventor Louis Daguerre doing the Macarena (well, at least that's what we think he's doing!).

More important than the brief salute to Daguerre's announcement is the site's new internet gallery exhibit, "The Daguerreotypes of Southworth & Hawes." This new exhibition features images by the first American masters of photography-- Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes, whose studio in Boston produced some of the finest portraits of all time using the process invented by Daguerre. The daguerreotypes in the exhibition were among the 240 Southworth & Hawes images rediscovered last year in a basement in Marblehead, Massachusetts. The daguerreotypes--unknown and unseen for 60 years--sold for more than three million dollars at auction in April (see my first newsletter for extensive details of this sale).

Along with the images, visitors to the web exhibit (direct address: www.photographymuseum.com/sandh1.html ) will find an 1855 review of Southworth & Hawes' photography and other period information. There's also Bill Becker's own report of the April auction at Sotheby's.

Novak has over 45 years experience in the photography-collecting arena. He is a long-time member and formally board member of the Daguerreian Society, and, when it was still functioning, he was a member of the American Historical Photographic Society. He organized the 2016 19th-century Photography Show and Conference for the Daguerreian Society. He is also a long-time member of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers. Novak has been a member of the board of the nonprofit Photo Review, which publishes both the Photo Review and the Photograph Collector, and is currently on the Photo Review's advisory board. He was a founding member of the Getty Museum Photography Council. He is author of French 19th-Century Master Photographers: Life into Art.

Novak has had photography articles and columns published in several newspapers, the American Photographic Historical Society newsletter, the Photograph Collector and the Daguerreian Society newsletter. He writes and publishes the E-Photo Newsletter, the largest circulation newsletter in the field. Novak is also president and owner of Contemporary Works/Vintage Works, a private photography dealer, which sells by appointment and at exhibit shows, such as AIPAD New York and Miami, Art Chicago, Classic Photography LA, Photo LA, Paris Photo, The 19th-century Photography Show, etc.