Academic journal article Oregon Historical Quarterly

OregonScape

Academic journal article Oregon Historical Quarterly

OregonScape

Article excerpt

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THE OREGON HISTORICAL SOCIETY Research Library's photograph collection contains many portrait photographs of early pioneers in the Oregon Country. Photography, invented in 1837, was important on the frontier because it supplied a connection to families and friends back East. Often, people had photos taken before they started out so they could leave an image of themselves behind in case something happened along the trail. By 1851, there were professional photographers in Oregon, and people also documented their arrival in their new home.

Daguerreotypes are easily identified among early photographs as they are made from sheets of copper coated with silver, and they look like mirrors when viewed straight on. Viewed from a slight angle, the image appears. Each exposure made only one image. A second copy required the sitter to continue sitting during another exposure. Sitters had to remain absolutely still for from twenty seconds up to a minute. Any movement created a blur. Before electric lighting became available (long after the daguerreotype era), photograph studios were lit by large skylights, and the length of exposure was determined by the brightness of the available sunlight; cloudy days meant sitting still much longer. …

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