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A work made of daguerreotype.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of daguerreotype.




Photographer unknown
American, 19th century

About this artwork

Inexpensive and astonishingly sharp, daguerreotypes were the most popular portrait form of the 1840s and 1850s. One subset of American daguerreotypes, so-called occupationals, showed workers posing with tools of their trade. These images celebrated American craft and labor, their subjects personifying traits like innovation, industriousness, and courage. This daguerreotype reveals that its sitter understood, and accommodated, the daguerreotype process, which reverses the image. To have his unit number read (almost) correctly, the fireman obligingly posed with his belt upside-down, sacrificing the N to get the O and E in the right place. Even in photography’s infancy, people knew how to pose for the camera; from this moment on, self-presentation would be mediated through its lens.


Currently Off View


Photography and Media


Unknown artist




United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 1850–1860




Plate, sight: 8.8 × 6.7 cm (3 1/2 × 2 11/16 in.); Case: 12 × 9.4 × 1 cm (4 3/4 × 3 3/4 × 7/16 in.)

Credit Line

Purchased with funds provided by Eric Ceputis and David Williams in honor of Liz Siegel

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

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