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Through the Looking Glass: Daguerreotype Masterworks From the Dawn of Photography

South Bend Museum of Art continues its popular Robert C. Shields American Series with the exhibition, Through the Looking Glass: Daguerreotype Masterworks From The Dawn of Photography. The exhibition features a selection of 145 photographs, mostly made in America, but also demonstrating work from France, England and the Mideast. All the major collecting genres are represented, including portraiture, landscapes, erotic stereos, post-mortems, and slavery subjects.

Invented in 1839, the daguerreotype is the chameleon of photography: open up its jewel-like leather or thermoplastic case and see yourself reflected in the mirror of the silver surface, now view it from another angle and see a startling negative image, now from yet a third angle and see the positive image revealed in its infinite detail and three-dimensionality — it takes your breath away. It is indeed a mirror held up to the soul of its subject, a time-machine to a bygone era.

This collection features both cased examples, mostly American, and larger framed plates, primarily European. Rarities include artistic whole plates of Boston’s upper crust by Southworth & Hawes; one of the earliest photos of Jerusalem, an archaeological whole plate by Girault de Prangey; a French photographer and draughtsman who was active in the Middle East. His daguerreotypes are the earliest surviving photographs of Greece, Palestine, Egypt, Syria and Turkey.