Daniel Carrillo

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  • Becquerel Daguerreotype

    Posted November 29th, 2011

    I was invited to join a group of fantastic photographers at the home of Laurel Schultz, a very talented Seattle sculptor/photographer.  She gave an impromptu workshop on the Becquerel method of creating daguerreotypes.  The process uses no mercury to develop the plate and no bromine to speed up the sensitivity and is considered safer and less toxic as it only requires elemental iodine to create and image.  The plate is developed by covering the plate with rubylith and exposing the covered plate to bright light.  The latent image appears slowly over a period of a few hours.  The sensitivity is extremely low and requires extremely long exposures making it impractical for some subjects.

    This was a two day adventure and on the first day we prepared the plates by polishing the plates, buffing them and then sensitizing using only iodine.  The plate was then loaded into a holder and exposed.  The day was dark  and overcast so my exposure was at about 1hr at an EV of 6 with the lens wide open at F/4.  After the exposure we all built small cardboard holders with the rubylith covering the exposed plates and then they were all exposed to a 100 watt floodlight for a few hours.

    The next day, some plates were better exposed than others and I lucked out and got a pretty strong image.  The plates were taken out of the enclosures and then gilt with gold chloride.

    Laurel even had some glass and archival tape to make enclosures.   The whole experience was just more confirmation that making daguerreotypes is  something that feel compelled to do.  I  have been waiting around until I could get some bromine(the hardest chemical to acquire)but I think I will continue to make the becquerel dags in order to get into the swing of it and a feel for preparing plates.  Ultimately, I will be  using bromine.  I can get some iodine and mercury with no problem so I am not sure what I was waiting for.  I can simply develop the iodine only daguerreotypes with mercury (in a fume hood of course)until I get the bromine.  Until then I will get to collecting all the necessary tools to make more daguerreotypes on my own.

    Here is the final image.  It is a 1/4 plate(3.25 x 4.25 inches)