Spagnoli and history


Jerry Spagnoli, The Last Great Dageurrian Survey of the Twentieth Century

Jerry Spagnoli is probably the world expert on the arcane Dageurreotype process. This was the first public form of photography, announced in January 1839. But Spagnoli makes larger and better Dageurreotypes than were possible at that time, an impressive achievement considering considering millions where made all over the world, 90,000 in the colony of NSW alone. Dageurreotypes were small enough to fit into a locket, but Spagnoli’s are huge, his latest series are 11×14 inches.

Dageurreotypes were very popular in the US and the process is closely tied to the nation’s 19th century history so it’s fascinating to see it recording US history in the 21st century. The image above captures the 9/11 destruction of the Twin Towers in 2001. A mid-19th century process aimed at a 21st century event involving inventions that were not even thought of then – the skyscraper, the airplane and terrorism. That is a strange time warp.


Jerry Spagnoli


Jerry Spagnoli, from Photomicrographs, 1994-97

These photographs by US photographer Jerry Spagnoli achieve something I’m interested in with my own practice, working at the limit of representation where the original image threatens to disappear and the signal dissolves into noise. They are from a project called Photomicrographs, close ups of the grain in film negatives.

These “photomicrographs” are made from the enlargement in a microscope of a detail isolated on pre-existing photographs which were shot using a 35 mm camera ( You can see more of them at his website here.

They are haunting images of anonymous humans who will one day dissolve away, just as their likeness dissolves in the pictures.


Jerry Spagnoli, from Photomicrographs, 1994-97

Jerry Spagnoli is a U.S. photographer whose work you probably know – he collaborated with Chuck Close on those giant Daguerrotype portraits. He is an expert in that recalcitrant process and you can see him demonstrating it here on you-tube.