Aug 03 2009
A recent portrait by Eric Mertens sheds light on our oldest living practitioner, Ray Phillips, who learnt the finer points of the process from Charles Tremear, the patriarch of the twentieth-century daguerreotype in America. The latter operated a studio from 1929 till his death in 1943, in Greenfield Village, part of the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Tremear was a traveling tintypist until he found work with Ford Motor Company in 1909, and in 1929 was asked to create authentic “old-style” tintypes for visitors to Greenfield Village. Tremear made portraits of about 100,000 persons, including Thomas Edison, Joe Louis and Walt Disney. Beyond the tintypes, though, he taught himself the daguerreotype process using original equipment and manuals.
Ray Phillips had been working on the process since 1936 before he had a portrait sitting early one morning in 1941 with Charles Tremear. Ray was so inspired by the event that he went home and talked his dad into putting skylights into the garage to upgrade his facilities. Ray continued to make daguerreotypes over the next 15 years before moving his efforts and resources into phonographs.
This latest portrait sitting was facilitated by tintypist René Rondeau (a friend of Ray Phillips) and it was a day Eric will always remember, filled with daguerreian anecdotes and great conversation.
Images below show the portrait and the day at Eric’s studio.
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