Edgar Allen Poe on Daguerreotype

Edgar Allen Poe’s belief that photography is “the most important, and perhaps the most extraordinary triumph of modern science” along with being “delighted in what he considered the magical accuracy of the photographic images” makes me, as a photographer, more appreciative of my craft and purpose. He sees photography, and daguerreotype specifically, as a magical instrument to capture reality. Even in that day it must have been impressive to obtain such clarity in images, since today, the most common source of imagery many of us look at is from a cell phone which is much worse quality yet still acceptable and believed as truthful.

Poe’s view on the Daguerreotype is a romantic take on photography that I envy and still want to keep alive in some aspect. I wish it were still true that photography were perceived as truthful, or at least intended to be. I try to create images that come from reality in my own work but are very manipulated in post production. Still, the intention is not to trick the viewer but to perhaps remove a distracting tree, change the color of a shirt or tell a story that may not have happened in that moment. Though, I think Poe is describing a slightly different kind of reality. He admires the ability to capture objects the same way we naturally see them with our eyes compared to painting, but I wonder what he would think of when he sees manipulated images today. Perhaps he may think that manipulation of the plate would only ruin this gift that was given to us through nature and invention.


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