January Issue 2002
Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC, Features Exhibition of Daguerreotypes
The Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC, will welcome in the New Year with an extraordinary exhibition entitled, Sights Once Seen: An Expedition through the Rockies that consists of more than 100 landscape daguerreotypes marking the first photographic documentation of western exploration in the United States. The exhibition will be on view from Jan. 2 through Mar. 31, 2002.
This series of daguerreotypes shows the beauty of the untamed west and documents a proposed railroad route from the Mississippi River to San Francisco, CA, as seen by explorer John Charles Fremont and Charleston photographer Solomon Numes Carvalho.
In 1853, celebrated explorer John Charles Fremont
set out to prove that neither the terrain nor weather would be
an obstacle for building what was then known as the "central
route". With this expedition, the fifth and final of his
distinguished career, Fremont became the first western explorer
to document the area from the Mississippi westward by photography.
He chose as expedition photographer Solomon Nunes Carvalho. Carvalho
used a practical method called daguerreotyping, which utilizes
small copper plates covered with a highly polished layer of silver
to capture images.
"We are very excited to have such a wonder- ful piece of western history here at the Gibbes. Even today the method of daguerreotyping is unrivaled for its beauty and ability to hold fine detail," said Gibbes Curator Angela Mack.
During the four-month journey, Carvalho made daguerreotypes daily under the most difficult of winter conditions. By journey's end, he had produced several hundred daguerreotypes, which he took to New York City where they were copied. The daguerreotypes along with the copies were put into storage, but were unfortunately destroyed in 1881 during one of New York's great fires. Despite the destruction of the daguerreotypes and copy photographs, the engraved printing plates made in the late 1850s survived and images from them can be seen today in the Gibbes's exhibition.
In addition to these original images, curator and photographer Dr. Robert Shlaer has retraced the steps of the original expedition and recreated Carvalho's daguerreotypes. He has also written a book entitled Sights Once Seen: Daguerreotyping Fremont's Last Expedition through the Rockies, which is on sale in the Gibbes Museum Shop. Shlaer helped organize this exhibition through the Palace of Governors and the Museum of New Mexico. Partial funding was provided by the Ethel Jane Bunting Special Exhibitions Fund of the Gibbes Endowment.
For more information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call the museum at 843/722-2706, or on the web at (http://www.gibbes.com).
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