About Early Photography


The Mir­ror of Race web­site pro­vides basic infor­ma­tion about each of the images dis­played in its on-line exhi­bi­tion. This infor­ma­tion is fair­ly stan­dard in any art-his­tor­i­cal schol­ar­ship, but those new to this top­ic may want some fur­ther expla­na­tion of the terms.

MAKER: Each images had its mak­er, of course, but it is worth keep­ing sev­er­al things in mind about this. First of all, the ear­ly forms of pho­to­graph­ic process (the daguerreo­type, the ambrotype, the tin­type and the albu­men print, to name the most com­mon ones) were very dif­fi­cult to learn and per­form, expen­sive in terms of their equip­ment and appa­ra­tus, and some­times very dan­ger­ous (for exam­ple, devel­op­ing a daguerreo­type requires heat­ing up mer­cury until it gives off fumes, and the wet-plate process­es include chem­i­cals that can — and often did — explode if improp­er­ly han­dled). For the most part, in these ear­ly years, only peo­ple who intend­ed to make pho­tog­ra­phy their trade learned how to do it. This is why most of the ear­ly pho­tographs are por­traits: the main busi­ness of com­mer­cial pho­tog­ra­phy was in por­trai­ture. Ear­ly pho­tog­ra­phers often did not sign their work. Some­times, they indi­cat­ed their iden­ti­ty by stamp­ing their names on the mat of the pho­to­graph, or on an adver­tis­ing card on the back of the image, or by a label or some sim­i­lar device. Such iden­ti­fied images are per­haps only 5–10% of what now exists from the ear­li­est peri­od. The rest are anony­mous.

Even when an inscrip­tion on a mat or a label can iden­ti­fy an indi­vid­ual mak­er, this does not nec­es­sar­i­ly mean that this per­son actu­al­ly made the image. The pro­duc­tion of ear­ly pho­tographs was com­plex and labor-inten­sive, and many pho­tog­ra­phers — espe­cial­ly the more suc­cess­ful ones, such as Matthew Brady — employed large num­bers of peo­ple to help them with their work. This process includ­ed receiv­ing and prepar­ing the client for the por­trait, prepar­ing the pho­to­graph­ic plate for expo­sure, set­ting up the cam­era and the client for the shot, expos­ing the plate in the cam­era, devel­op­ing the plate, and fin­ish­ing it for the client (which could involve apply­ing col­or to it by hand, plac­ing it in a brass mat and a case made of wood and paper or some­times an ear­ly ver­sion of plas­tic called ther­mo­plas­tic). In fact, the most famous and suc­cess­ful pho­tog­ra­phers might nev­er meet most of their clients: they ran large stu­dios where teams of “oper­a­tors” would set up and take the actu­al pho­tographs.

Most ear­ly pho­tographs were made in a stu­dio. This is because the ear­ly pho­to­graph­ic process­es were dif­fi­cult and cum­ber­some: they required a great deal of sen­si­tive equip­ment to pre­pare and devel­op, and light­ing con­di­tions had to be opti­mal. Still, some brave prac­ti­tion­ers loaded up wag­ons with their equip­ment and went out into the coun­try­side in search of cus­tomers. These were called “itin­er­ant” pho­tog­ra­phers. It should be remem­bered that in the mid-nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, the Unit­ed States was still an agrar­i­an soci­ety: most peo­ple lived and worked on farms and in the agri­cul­tur­al indus­tries, often too far away from cities just to come in for a por­trait at a stu­dio.

Final­ly, we call them “mak­ers” because a great many ear­ly pho­tog­ra­phers in the Unit­ed States con­sid­ered them­selves to be arti­sans and busi­ness­peo­ple rather than artists. The vast major­i­ty of ear­ly pho­tog­ra­phers learned the process not to pro­duce art, but rather to make a liv­ing by tak­ing por­traits. The process was too dif­fi­cult and too expen­sive for just any­body to do it as we do today, as ama­teurs. Although some ear­ly pho­tog­ra­phers argued force­ful­ly that pho­tog­ra­phy was an art, like sculp­ture and paint­ing, it might sur­prise us today to learn that most of the “author­i­ties” on art in the 19th cen­tu­ry did not con­sid­er pho­tog­ra­phy to be an art at all — it was mere­ly a form of mechan­i­cal repro­duc­tion of images in their eyes, a skill prac­ticed by trades­men with­out tal­ent, rather than a true art form.

SITTER/SUBJECT: The vast major­i­ty of ear­ly pho­tographs are por­traits of ordi­nary peo­ple who went to the pho­tog­ra­ph­er to make an image for close friends and fam­i­ly. At first, pho­tographs were very expen­sive, but by the mid-1840’s com­pe­ti­tion had dri­ven the prices down far enough that even a labor­er could afford a mod­est por­trait. Some­times, the cus­tomer would write his or her own name on the image, or a fam­i­ly mem­ber would do so on a slip of paper on in a case. But just as we today rarely label our own pho­tographs when we give or receive them, because we know who our friends and loved-ones are, and they know our faces, so too did the con­sumers of pho­tog­ra­phy in its ear­ly years usu­al­ly leave them unla­beled: they knew who the por­traits were, and that was enough. Pho­tog­ra­phy then was usu­al­ly a pri­vate mat­ter, made for friends and fam­i­ly, not for the gen­er­al pub­lic.  But the con­nec­tions of friend­ship and fam­i­ly are often lost in time, and so what were once inti­mate records of a per­son — attempts at visu­al immor­tal­i­ty — have now, iron­i­cal­ly, become anony­mous.

A much small­er num­ber of pho­tographs were of sub­jects oth­er than a par­tic­u­lar per­son. Some were out­door scenes or build­ings, some were objects or ani­mals. Some­times, a place or an object can be iden­ti­fied. It should be remem­bered that ear­ly pho­tog­ra­phy, because it was expen­sive and dif­fi­cult, was rarely infor­mal or whim­si­cal: the client usu­al­ly had a rea­son to have the pho­to­graph made — per­haps to record a prize-win­ning bull, or to com­mem­o­rate the build­ing of a house. With the advent of the glass-plate and albu­men print process in the mid-1850’s, which allowed for the mass-pro­duc­tion of images, a greater vari­ety of sub­jects came into cir­cu­la­tion, because pho­tog­ra­phers could make prints not just for pri­vate clients who com­mis­sioned the image, but for a wider pub­lic that might be inter­est­ed in the sub­ject.

GENRE: A genre is a type of work of art, cat­e­go­rized by its style, its form or its sub­ject mat­ter. The gen­res of ear­ly pho­tog­ra­phy include the fol­low­ing:

Por­trait: What defines a por­trait is that the focus of the image is upon the indi­vid­ual iden­ti­ty of the sit­ter or sit­ters, even if we no longer know who these are. In this sense, we can even find por­traits of dogs and cats, as well as of peo­ple. At the same time, an image can include peo­ple with­out being a por­trait. Ear­ly pho­to­graph­ic por­trai­ture drew heav­i­ly upon the long tra­di­tion of paint­ed por­trai­ture. In this peri­od, paint­ed por­trai­ture was so expen­sive that only the very wealthy could afford it. By com­par­i­son, pho­to­graph­ic por­trai­ture was inex­pen­sive, but it still gen­er­al­ly adhered to the con­ven­tions of paint­ed por­trai­ture, if only to cap­ture some of its sta­tus. This is why most ear­ly pho­to­graph­ic por­traits seem so severe to the mod­ern eye: to have one’s por­trait made was still under­stood to be a seri­ous mat­ter; this was a person’s oppor­tu­ni­ty to record him- or her­self for the ages. There are sev­er­al types of por­trait, although the vast major­i­ty of por­trait pho­tographs were sim­ple stu­dio por­traits of ordi­nary peo­ple:

Com­mer­cial: Although this cat­e­go­ry strains the sense of “por­trait,” there were some pho­tographs made of ani­mals or objects used for com­mer­cial pur­pos­es. An inven­tor might take an image of a patent­ed item to bring on a jour­ney to show to prospec­tive investors; a breed­er might have a “por­trait” made of a prize bull.

Ethno­graph­ic: Por­traits of this type in the ear­ly peri­od (1840’s through 1870’s) are extreme­ly rare. An ethno­graph­ic por­trait depicts the sub­ject not as an indi­vid­ual per­son but rather as the exam­ple of a sup­posed human type. The ear­li­est know exam­ple of ethno­graph­ic por­traits in the Unit­ed States are the images made in the late 1840’s by J. T. Zealy, on com­mis­sion from the Har­vard nat­u­ral­ist Louis Agas­siz, of slaves from South Car­oli­na plan­ta­tions.
Itin­er­ant: Some ear­ly pho­tog­ra­phers would trav­el by wag­on among rur­al vil­lages and farms to get the busi­ness of cus­tomers who were too far away from the larg­er towns and cities where the fixed stu­dios oper­at­ed. Itin­er­ant images often look less pol­ished and more “naïve” than stu­dio por­traits:  for exam­ple, instead of an elab­o­rate back­drop, there might be only a fab­ric or can­vass hung up behind the sit­ter, the com­po­si­tion might be eccen­tric, or the pose might be stiff or uncon­ven­tion­al.

Occu­pa­tion­al: Hav­ing one’s por­trait tak­en was con­sid­ered an impor­tant occa­sion in the peri­od of ear­ly pho­tog­ra­phy, and often the sit­ter gave care­ful thought to his or her self-pre­sen­ta­tion. For many, their pro­fes­sion or occu­pa­tion was a defin­ing fea­ture of their iden­ti­ty. A seam­stress might pose with her sewing kit, a min­is­ter with his Bible, a car­pen­ter with his tools, a mill work­er with her shut­tle and scis­sors, a fire­man with his gear, or a sol­dier in his uni­form.

Post­mortem: Death was an ever-present real­i­ty in the mid-nine­teenth cen­tu­ry; it was not some­thing that could be ignored or avoid­ed, as it often is today. Dis­ease was com­mon, and ill­ness­es that we can cure now with antibi­otics were fre­quent­ly fatal. Women were espe­cial­ly vul­ner­a­ble in child­birth, and chil­dren often died in the first years of their lives, falling vic­tim to dis­ease. For many fam­i­lies, the only mem­o­ry that they might be able to secure of a depart­ed loved-one would be a pho­to­graph tak­en short­ly after the person’s death. Many pho­tog­ra­phers spe­cial­ized in this trade, adver­tis­ing that they would come to the homes of the depart­ed to make a por­trait.

Stu­dio: This is by far the most com­mon genre of ear­ly pho­tog­ra­phy. Such por­traits were pro­duced in set loca­tions, where the pho­tog­ra­ph­er would have the opti­mal con­di­tions for receiv­ing the cus­tomer, con­trol­ling the light­ing, pro­cess­ing the pho­to­graph etc.

Scene: A scene is a depic­tion of a place, event or activ­i­ty. Scenes were fair­ly uncom­mon in the ear­li­est peri­od (1840–1860), when most of the trade con­sist­ed in por­trai­ture. After the devel­op­ment of mass-pro­duced images from glass-plate neg­a­tives, the mar­ket for scenes grew, once pho­tog­ra­phers could pro­duce them cheap­ly and rel­a­tive­ly eas­i­ly.

Archi­tec­tur­al, pri­vate: Some clients would com­mis­sion a pho­tog­ra­ph­er to make an image of a pri­vate home. A home of one’s own was a mat­ter of con­sid­er­able pride.

Archi­tec­tur­al, com­mer­cial: A suc­cess­ful mer­chant or busi­ness­man might com­mis­sion a por­trait of the shop or fac­to­ry where he did his busi­ness.
Archi­tec­tur­al, civic: These are quite rare in the ear­li­est peri­od, again because of the lack of a broad mar­ket for them. They are char­ac­ter­ized by an inter­est in the pub­lic impor­tance of a city-space or build­ing.
Cityscape or town­scape: These are quite rare in ear­ly pho­tog­ra­phy. They were dif­fi­cult to make, and, per­haps more to the point, there was not much of a mar­ket for them until the devel­op­ment tech­niques for the mass-pro­duc­tion of images.
Com­mer­cial: The new tech­niques of mass pro­duc­tion, asso­ci­at­ed at first most wide­ly with the albu­men print process­es, allowed pho­tog­ra­phers to pro­duce images intend­ed for a large com­mer­cial mar­ket, rather than for indi­vid­ual clients as had been most­ly the case with the daguerreo­type and ambrotype process­es.
His­tor­i­cal or top­i­cal: With the advent of process­es that allowed for the mass pro­duc­tion of images, some pho­tog­ra­phers made images of his­tor­i­cal places or events (usu­al­ly after the action had tak­en place because of the dif­fi­cul­ties involved in cap­tur­ing live action with the ear­ly equip­ment). The most famous of the ear­ly prac­ti­tion­ers of this genre was Matthew Brady, whose oper­a­tors took pho­tographs of Civ­il War bat­tle­fields after the bat­tles and sol­diers in their camps. As the tech­niques devel­oped and made pho­tog­ra­phy more mobile, pho­tog­ra­phers sought to cap­ture a wide vari­ety of top­i­cal sub­jects, from the sights of for­eign coun­tries to local points of inter­est.

Land­scape: In the ear­li­est peri­od of pho­tog­ra­phy (cir­ca 1840–1860), true land­scapes, with no per­sons or human con­struc­tion vis­i­ble, are fair­ly unusu­al. This is because it was quite dif­fi­cult to get the equip­ment to such set­tings, and also because there was lit­tle com­mer­cial demand for them. Once mass-pro­duced tech­niques became avail­able, then land­scapes became more pop­u­lar, but daguerreo­types, ambrotypes and tin­types were one-of-a-kind items, and so a spe­cif­ic indi­vid­ual would have to have a good rea­son to go to the expense of com­mis­sion­ing one in the out­doors, far from a com­mer­cial stu­dio.

Occu­pa­tion­al: Anoth­er rare type is the scene that depicts peo­ple at work in a par­tic­u­lar trade, pro­fes­sion, or occu­pa­tion, such as a teacher teach­ing, or mill work­ers in a fac­to­ry. These became more com­mon with the mass-pro­duced tech­niques.

Per­former: A spe­cial­ized sub-cat­e­go­ry of the occu­pa­tion­al por­trait is the por­trait of the per­former, whether in the the­ater, in music, or in a cir­cus. Such por­traits were sold to a broad pub­lic and the per­form­ers them­selves would use them as adver­tis­ing — but again, this only real­ly became pos­si­ble with the com­ing of mass-pro­duced pho­tographs. The pub­lic in the Unit­ed States devel­oped a strong taste for such images in the mid-19th cen­tu­ry, fol­low­ing the suc­cess of per­form­ers such as Jen­ny Lind, the so-called Swedish Nightin­gale.

Social/Political: Mass pro­duc­tion, based on pho­to­graph­ic process­es such as the albu­men print, led to the use of images for social move­ments and polit­i­cal caus­es. An exam­ple of this in the Mir­ror of Race exhi­bi­tion are the var­i­ous images of for­mer slaves that were sold to raise funds for freed slaves in the occu­pied South dur­ing the Civ­il War.

Staged: Also uncom­mon is the staged scene, where the pho­tog­ra­ph­er sets up a shot to give the illu­sion of action tak­ing place. Because of the long expo­sure times in ear­ly pho­tog­ra­phy, it was next to impos­si­ble to cap­ture actu­al action.

PROCESS: This cat­e­go­ry cov­ers the var­i­ous tech­niques used in the Unit­ed States to pro­duce pho­tographs in the ear­ly peri­od. These process­es includ­ed the daguerreo­type, the ambrotype, and the tin­type, as well as the albu­men print process­es: the carte de vis­ite, the cab­i­net card, and most ear­ly stere­oviews. The fun­da­men­tal fea­tures of the var­i­ous ear­ly process­es are as fol­lows:

Daguerreo­type (1839 to the ear­ly 1860’s): An image pro­duced on a sil­ver-coat­ed cop­per plate. A daguerreo­type will often have a haunt­ing three-dimen­sion­al qual­i­ty, and it will reflect like a mir­ror. The suc­cess­ful pro­duc­tion of a daguerreo­type demand­ed much skill and labor, and so new and eas­i­er tech­niques rapid­ly replaced it. A daguerreo­type is a unique image; there is no neg­a­tive from which to make copies.

Wet Plate Process­es: The fol­low­ing process­es are all based on the wet plate tech­nique. This involves plac­ing light-sen­si­tive chem­i­cals in a trans­par­ent, sticky sub­stance called col­lo­di­on and then coat­ing a pho­to­graph­ic plate with the wet, gooey col­lo­di­on and then expos­ing it in the cam­era.

Ambrotype (1854 to the mid-1860’s): The ambrotype is a pho­to­graph­ic neg­a­tive on a glass plate, made to appear pos­i­tive by a dark back­ground (either dark glass, dark paint, or black fab­ric or paper). Although cheap­er than the daguerreo­type to pro­duce, the ambrotype was heavy and vul­ner­a­ble to break­age, and it was replaced by the tin­type, the carte de vis­ite and the cab­i­net card. Although the ambrotype was treat­ed as a unique image in the pho­to­graph­ic trade, each one pro­duced for a sin­gle client, it is in prin­ci­ple pos­si­ble to print copies from an ambrotype plate.

Tin­type (1856 to around 1900, but con­tin­u­ing in places through the 1930’s): Despite its name, the tin­type is a pho­to­graph made on a thin piece of dark­ened iron (it is also some­times called a fer­rotype, from the Latin work for iron). The tin­type was pop­u­lar because it was light and durable and com­par­a­tive­ly cheap to pro­duce. Tin­types became espe­cial­ly pop­u­lar in the Civ­il War peri­od, because sol­diers and their fam­i­lies could eas­i­ly send them to each oth­er through the mail. Tin­types are unique images; there is no neg­a­tive from which prints could be made. Some pho­tog­ra­phers used cam­eras with mul­ti­ple lens­es to make mul­ti­ple tin­type por­traits of a sit­ter at the same time.

Glass plate neg­a­tives and albu­men prints (1851 to around 1910): By the ear­ly 1850’s, inven­tors had dis­cov­ered how to make a pho­to­graph­ic neg­a­tive on a glass plate. This allowed for the mass pro­duc­tion of prints from these neg­a­tives using paper treat­ed with albu­men (egg whites) as the sup­port for light-sen­si­tive chem­i­cals. This rev­o­lu­tion­ized the pho­tog­ra­phy busi­ness by the 1860’s, because now the mak­er could pro­duce copies for a wide mar­ket of con­sumers, not just for indi­vid­ual clients. Pho­to­graph­ic firms would mount large print­ing arrays on the tops of their build­ings, where they could print copies from their plates in the sun­light, because there no ade­quate arti­fi­cial light had yet been invent­ed. The most com­mon forms of pho­to­graph using the glass plate and albu­men print process were the fol­low­ing:

Carte de vis­ite (intro­duced in 1854): The name, carte de vis­ite (abbre­vi­at­ed as CDV or cdv), is French for “vis­it­ing card.” Vic­to­ri­ans used vis­it­ing or call­ing cards as a way of leav­ing their names when mak­ing social and busi­ness vis­its, and the carte de vis­ite adopt­ed this tra­di­tion as its own. The carte de vis­ite became enor­mous­ly pop­u­lar in the Civ­il War era: because they were made on paper with a thin card­board back­ing, they were light and easy to mail, like the tin­type, and they could be repro­duced from the glass neg­a­tive, so one could give copies to friends and fam­i­ly. The typ­i­cal carte de vis­ite was some­what larg­er than a mod­ern busi­ness card or cred­it card.

Cab­i­net card (intro­duced in 1863): The cab­i­net card is a larg­er for­mat print on paper, backed by a more rigid card­board mount.

Stere­oview (intro­duced in the mid-1850’s): A stere­oview is a pho­to­graph made by a cam­era with two lens­es placed side-by-side in such a way that the image pro­duced, when look at in the appro­pri­ate view­ing mech­a­nism, appears three-dimen­sion­al. There were stere­oview daguerreo­types and ambrotypes, but the process real­ly became suc­cess­ful and wide­spread with the devel­op­ment of mass-pro­duced albu­men prints.

DIMENSIONS: Most ear­ly pho­tographs came in stan­dard sizes. Just as today, when we buy film or have our neg­a­tives devel­oped by a store (or even our dig­i­tal images print­ed by an on-line com­pa­ny), stan­dard­iza­tion makes the process sim­pler. Pho­to­graph­ic plates came in stan­dard sizes for daguerreo­types and ambrotypes, as did the cas­es in which they were dis­played; at first, tin­types fol­lowed these stan­dards, but then devel­oped oth­ers. Stan­dard plate sizes were as fol­lows:

Six­teenth plate: 1–3/8 by 1–5/8 inch­es
Ninth plate: 2 by 2–1/2 inch­es

Sixth plate: 2–5/8 by 3–1/4 inch­es

Quar­ter plate: 3–1/8 by 4–1/8 inch­es

Half plate:  4–1/2 by 5–1/2 inch­es

Full (or whole) plate: 6–1/2 by 8–1/2 inch­es

The most com­mon plate size was the sixth plate, fol­lowed by the ninth. There were some plates even larg­er than the full plate (such as the so-called “mam­moth” plates, and oth­ers), but these are very rare.

With the intro­duc­tion of the carte de vis­ite, a new stan­dard size for that process took hold. It was approx­i­mate­ly 2–3/8 inch­es wide and 4 inch­es tall, with more vari­a­tion in the height. The term “cdv stan­dard” refers to these gen­er­al dimen­sions, with some vari­a­tion.

With the stan­dard­iza­tion of the carte de vis­ite, the pho­to­graph­ic indus­try began to pro­duce pho­to albums in which clients could present and pre­serve their cartes de vis­ite. Because of this, by the ear­ly 1860’s, pho­tog­ra­phers also began mak­ing tin­types to the cdv stan­dard size to cap­ture some of this busi­ness, since tin­types of that size could also fit in the albums. (Daguerreo­types and ambrotypes were too bulky to fit into albums.) In the ear­ly 1860’s, the tin­type known as the “gem­type” became pop­u­lar. The gem­type was a tiny tin­type, mea­sur­ing a half an inch by an inch, and intend­ed for use in minia­ture pho­to­graph albums. Some pho­tog­ra­phers had spe­cial­ized gem­type cam­eras with as many as six­teen lens­es to make six­teen images on a sin­gle plate, to be cut up into indi­vid­ual gem­types. These were used almost exclu­sive­ly for por­trai­ture. To review:

Carte de vis­ite stan­dard: approx­i­mate­ly 2–3/8 by 4 inch­es
Gem­type:                           approx­i­mate­ly ½ by 1 inch
Both cartes de vis­ite and many tin­types fol­lowed the carte de vis­ite stan­dard. Gem­types were always pro­duced as tin­types.
Cab­i­net cards and stere­oviews also fol­lowed gen­er­al stan­dards, although with some vari­a­tions. Most albu­men print cab­i­net cards were approx­i­mate­ly 4–1/4 by 6–1/2 inch­es. Most ear­ly albu­men print stere­oviews were approx­i­mate­ly 3–1/4 by 7 inch­es.

DATE: It is pos­si­ble to date ear­ly pho­tographs based on a vari­ety of clues and fac­tors:

Process: Each pho­to­graph­ic process had its date of intro­duc­tion and its peri­od of use.

Mak­er: If the mak­er of the image is known, that can help date the image, if the maker’s dates of oper­a­tion are also known.

Cloth­ing style: Fash­ions in the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry went through their cycles, just as they do now. Women’s fash­ions in par­tic­u­lar can be dat­ed quite pre­cise­ly, as we know when cer­tain designs, looks, and fab­rics came in and out of fash­ion. Men’s mil­i­tary uni­forms are also good guides to dat­ing,

Plate marks: The mak­ers of daguerreo­type plates and some ear­ly tin­type plates stamped these plates with their maker’s mark. These marks can often help us date the image.

Con­text: Some­times an object in an image can pro­vide a deci­sive clue to a date. For exam­ple, a book might have a cer­tain date of pub­li­ca­tion, or a well-known build­ing a date of con­struc­tion.

Pre­sen­ta­tion: Pho­tog­ra­phers pre­sent­ed near­ly all daguerreo­types and ambrotypes, and many ear­ly tin­types, to the client in cas­es, with mats made of brass or some­times paper. The styles of these cas­es and mats changed over the years, so they can be used to date a cased image.

Inscrip­tions and nota­tions: Some­times the own­er of an image inscribed the date of its mak­ing on the image, in the case, or on an accom­pa­ny­ing tag or slip of paper.

Known sit­ters: If the sit­ter for a por­trait is a known per­son, and espe­cial­ly if it is a famous or his­toric per­son, that may offer a clue to the date of the image, because we can com­pare this image with oth­er known images of the per­son at dif­fer­ent stages of life.

COLLECTION: This records the per­son or insti­tu­tion that owns the image.


His­to­ry of ear­ly pho­tog­ra­phy and pho­tog­ra­phers:
Beau­mont Newhall, His­to­ry of Pho­tog­ra­phy: From 1839 to the Present, revised edi­tion (Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1982). This book pro­vides a broad his­to­ry of pho­tog­ra­phy for a gen­er­al audi­ence.

Michel Frizot (ed.), A New His­to­ry of Pho­tog­ra­phy (Köln, Ger­many: Köne­mann, 1998). A col­lec­tion of essays for the more advanced stu­dent, begin­ning with the pre-pho­to­graph­ic roots of pho­tog­ra­phy in art and sci­ence.

Dat­ing and iden­ti­fy­ing ear­ly pho­tographs:

O. Hen­ry Mace, Collector’s Guide to Ear­ly Pho­tographs, 2nd edi­tion (Iola, WI: Krause Pub­li­ca­tions, 1999). This gen­er­ous­ly illus­trat­ed guide is a very use­ful resource for those who want to learn more about dis­tin­guish­ing the var­i­ous types of ear­ly pho­to­graph­ic process and their peri­ods of use.

Nine­teenth cen­tu­ry cloth­ing styles:

Priscil­la Har­ris Dal­rym­ple, Amer­i­can Vic­to­ri­an Cos­tume in Ear­ly Pho­tographs (Mine­o­la, NY: Dover Pub­li­ca­tions, 1991). An inex­pen­sive intro­duc­tion for a gen­er­al audi­ence, well illus­trat­ed.

Joan Sev­era, Dressed for the Pho­tog­ra­ph­er: Ordi­nary Amer­i­cans and Fash­ion, 1840–1900 (Kent, Ohio: The Ohio State Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1995). Joan Sev­era offers an extra­or­di­nar­i­ly detailed dis­cus­sion of fash­ion in the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, illus­trat­ing the changes from year to year and decade to decade with peri­od pho­tographs. Her read­ings of the indi­vid­ual images are fas­ci­nat­ing pieces of detec­tive work.