Light Traces. Daguerreotypes from Swiss Collections 1840 to 1860

2 December 2006 to 18 February 2007

Daguerreotypes, the first photographic images on silvered and polished copper plates, have been a source of fascination ever since their publication by the French State in August 1839. The process, invented by the painter Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, was revolutionary. With it, nature seemed to portray itself "with astonishing similarity", apparently without the help of the artist. Condemned by many of the critics of the time as mechanical and thus lifeless representations, nowadays the pictures seem to be almost uncannily vivid and atmospheric witnesses of photography's early days: wide-open windows onto a bygone era.

The Fotostiftung Schweiz presents the first exhibition of rare, unique specimens from the Collection W. + T. Bosshard, one of Europe's major private Daguerreotype collections. A selection of almost 150 pictures shows the spectrum of themes with which the Daguerreotypists were concerned until around 1860: from different variations on portrait photography - including portraits of animals and staged genre pictures - via landscapes, architectural and object photographs right up to early "snapshots” and travel photos, as well as erotic nude pictures taken in secret. Since many of the early Daguerreotypists were originally painters, their works took their place in the image production of the time almost self-evidently. And yet they were so different to the usual lithographs, etchings, drawings and paintings (for which they not infrequently served as master images). Even the earliest Daguerreotypes were distinguished by highly differentiated tonal values, an enormous wealth of detail and an almost tangible plasticity. In short: these "mirrors with a memory" possessed an almost magical representational quality that still casts a spell on us today. Nevertheless, this technique had a relatively short heyday; as early as 1860, the elaborate production of unique photographic specimens was replaced by the far more economic, reproducible negative/positive processes that we know today. The exhibition "Light Traces" is the first comprehensive exhibition on Daguerreotypy in Switzerland. The greater part of the pictures originates from the Collection W.+T. Bosshard and is complemented by works from the Fotostiftung Schweiz Collection and further loans. Swiss Daguerretypists represented include works by Jean-Gabriel Eynard (Geneva), Carl Dürrheim (Bern), Friedrich Gysi (Aarau), Samuel Heer (Lausanne), and Johann Baptiste Isenring and Johann Baptiste Taeschler (both St. Gallen), and Franziska Möllinger (Solothurn).

The exhibition is supported by OSRAM AG, Winterthur. Memoriav supports the restauration of the daguerreotypes of the Fotostiftung Schweiz.

The exhibition will be accompanied by the publication:
René Perret, Kunst und Magie der Daguerreotypie. Collection W.+T. Bosshard, 230 colour illustrations, hardcover, 29X23 cm, 248 pages, BEA + Poly-Verlags AG, Brugg 2006.