Unlike William Henry Fox Talbot’s paper negative process, which allowed for multiple positives to be made from the same negative, the daguerreotype process produced only a single example with each use. In response to this limitation, several processes were developed to reproduce daguerreotypes in ink. Hippolyte Fizeau, a scientist and daguerreotypist, devised a method for etching directly into the copper daguerreotype plate, which created a printing plate but destroyed the daguerreotype in the process. The plate could then be used to make multiple prints on paper in permanent ink. The process was not perfect, however, and the resulting prints often looked primitive compared to the refined surface and tonal depth of the original daguerreotype. Nevertheless, this print by Fizeau possesses an impressive amount of detail, from the maze of lines in the stone-and-brick walls to the tiny tiles in the roofs. Saint-Sulpice was one of Fizeau’s favorite subjects, in part because it was close at hand: this view was probably taken from his own rooftop. By lugging his heavy camera up the stairs, Fizeau brought photography out of the studio and into the world—and, through his ink prints, helped introduce the world to photography.
E. Weill, London
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 55," December 13, 2010–April 4, 2011.