First Revolution, 1839: Daguerreotypes And The Intimate Gaze

Mike Robinson, Eli Palmer


First Revolution, 1839 brings the experience of the original “still revolution” to a public immersed in widespread technological and social change.

Daguerreotypes, the first publicly available photographs, were invented before the advent of electrical illumination and had revolutionary social consequences. Exposed on silvered copper plates, daguerreotypes are small in scale, yet powerful in effect. Best seen in the low light of interior spaces, this exhibition within the oldest remaining brick home from the Town of York recreates the intimacy of daguerreotypes’ original surroundings.

The exhibition features rare early daguerreotypes made in Toronto, from the collection of Steven Evans, and a selection of new daguerreotypes by Mike Robinson, the only photographer practicing this technique in Canada today. Robinson has produced new daguerreotypes especially for the exhibition. Displayed within the authentic surroundings of Campbell House – on a mantelpiece, by a bed, in a traditional wooden cabinet – the exhibition highlights the intimate relationship that occurs between the viewer and the photographic object. As daguerreotypes were sometimes viewed in stereoscope, there will be a reproduction stereoscopic machine for viewing a specially selected image. An exhibition in the19th-century ballroom explains the medium’s origins and celebrates the story of Eli Palmer, Toronto's first known daguerreotypist.

Lecture by Mike Robinson, May 14, 8 pm, "Daguerreotypes, Past and Present."

Curated by Liz Driver, Curator of Campbell House, in partnership with Mike Robinson