Amon Carter Museum Presents "Sights Once Seen: Daguerreotyping Frémont's Last Expedition Through the Rockies"

Release date: 
December 11, 2003

FORT WORTH, Texas --- An exhibition that brings together American history and the history of photography opens at the Amon Carter Museum on January 31, 2004. "Sights Once Seen: Daguerreotyping Frémont's Last Expedition Through the Rockies" features more than 100 daguerreotypes by photographer Robert Shlaer (b. 1942), who from 1994 to 1998 retraced the route of one of the most important expeditions of the 19th century. The exhibition runs through May 2, 2004.

In 1853, explorer John C. Frémont led an expedition from Missouri to California in an attempt to locate a route for the proposed transcontinental railway. He brought with him Solomon Nunes Carvalho, who created more than 300 daguerreotypes documenting the journey. Carvalho subsequently lost most of his plates to a fire, but not before writing a detailed, illustrated account of the expedition. Shlaer used Frémont's maps, Carvalho's wood engravings, and written accounts of the expedition as guides to retrace the steps of this famous trek, making his own daguerreotypes along the way. "Sights Once Seen" presents Shlaer's reconstruction of Carvalho's work.

Shlaer's daguerreotypes bring the Frémont expedition to life, mirroring in size and scope some of the first photographs of the Rocky Mountain region. They reveal how some influential Easterners first saw that landscape.

Introduced in Paris in 1839, the daguerreotype process was named after its inventor, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre (1787---1851). The process involves using small copper plates covered with a highly polished layer of silver to create one-of-a-kind images of unparalleled detail. The process was popular until the mid-1850s, when it was replaced by the wet-plate process, which allows for multiple copies. Few people make daguerreotypes today because of the complexity of the process, their intimate size, and their singularity; each daguerreotype is a unique object. But daguerreotypes still remain unrivaled in their deliverance of fine detail, a trait of the medium that continues to draw an increasing number of contemporary artists to practice and perfect it.

A small exhibition, "Copper, Silver, and Mercury: The Daguerreotype Process Defined," will be on view in the Photography Focus Gallery at the same time as "Sights Once Seen." It will explain the daguerreotype process and feature examples from the Carter's permanent collection.

"Sights Once Seen: Daguerreotyping Frémont's Last Expedition Through the Rockies" is organized by the Palace of the Governors, Museum of New Mexico, and circulated through TREX: The Traveling Exhibition Program of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation with support from the Avenir Foundation. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue of the same name, published by Museum of New Mexico Press.

The "Star-Telegram" is the official print sponsor of the Amon Carter Museum.

Public Programs

Thursday, February 12, 12:15-12:45 p.m.
Gallery Talk: "Copper, Silver, and Mercury: The Alchemy of the Daguerreotype"
Sylvie Pénichon, Conservator of Photographs
Admission is free

Sunday, March 14, 3-4 p.m.
An Artist's Perspective Lecture: "A Visual History of Frémont's Fifth Expedition"
Robert Shlaer, Daguerreotypist
Admission is free

Saturday, March 20, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Sunday, March 21, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Workshop: "Making a Daguerreotype: A One-Day Hands-On Workshop"
Mike Robinson, Proprietor, Mike Robinson's Century Darkroom, Toronto, Canada
Mike Robinson will conduct two daguerreotype workshops at the Amon Carter Museum. The first workshop will be on March 20, and it will be repeated on March 21. The workshops run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Each workshop is limited to six people. The fee is $250 for members and $300 for nonmembers, plus a $40 materials fee. Participants will enjoy hands-on experience producing a daguerreotype, which will be theirs to keep. Call 817-989-5080 for additional information or to register. Registrations will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis until March 5. Advance payment is required. No refunds for cancellations made on or after the registration deadline.