William Langenheim (American, born Germany, Schöningen 1807–1874)
Frederick Langenheim (American, born Germany, Schöningen 1809–1879)
Image: 12.1 × 8.9 cm (4 3/4 × 3 1/2 in.)
Case: 1.6 × 15.2 × 11.9 cm (5/8 in. × 6 in. × 4 11/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005
Not on view
In 1849 the Langenheim brothers bought the United States patent for making photographs from paper negatives from William Henry Fox Talbot, the medium's inventor. The Langenheims also continued to produce daguerreotypes, such as this brilliant composition in which Frederick examines a group of Talbotype portraits-including his own-that may themselves be copies of daguerreotypes. In other words, this image presents three distinct subjects: Frederick Langenheim, photography itself, and the very process of reproduction. Using the nonreproducible daguerreotype process to make a picture about reproduction may seem paradoxical, but the incomparable detail seen here, from the visible writing on the mounts of the paper prints to the finely woven pattern in Frederick's silk vest, would have been impossible to capture with a paper negative.