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June 28, 2021

22 Curious Daguerreotypes of People Turn Their Backs to Camera

The daguerreotype was invented by Louis Daguerre (1787–1851), and it was the first commercial photographic process. A highly polished silver surface on a copper plate was sensitized to light by exposing it to iodine fumes. After exposing the plate in a camera it was developed with mercury vapor.

The invention revolutionized landscape photography. Portraits, however, were still a nuisance. Good luck getting kids to sit still for family photos, let alone convincing adults to stare motionlessly for 15 minutes. So, photographers set up some simple rules: No talking. No adjusting. No sneezing. And, just to be safe, no smiling.

By the 1840s, exposure times bobbed around 10 to 60 seconds, making personal photos much more feasible. Yet even then, heads sagged, backs slouched, and fingers fidgeted. Some professionals developed hidden neck braces that would lock the subject’s body into place.

It took decades for photography to become near instantaneous, and for “say cheese” to become part of popular culture. Here, a collection of 22 curious daguerreotypes of people turn their backs to camera for a photograph.


  1. After looking at all of those I now can identify more closely with what the guy who runs this site must feel like whenever he checks his visitor stats.

  2. None of these portraits are daguerreotypes.




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