Daniel Kuczynski and daguerreotypes

Daniel Kuczynski talks about his work in the daguerreotype process and shows some daguerrotypes.

Writer and photography / Daniel Kuczynski

Daguerrotype by Daniel Kuczynski
What Remains. Daguerreotype by Daniel Kuczynski

About Daniel Kuczynski

Daniel Kuczynski began his study of Fine Art Photography in the 1980’s at George Washington University, where he was introduced to the Gum Bichromate process. In 1987, Daniel obtained his degree in Photo History & Chemistry at Goddard College in Vermont, thus beginning his work in numerous alternative processes: Gum Bichromate, Palladium, Gum over Palladium, Bromoil, Oil, Cyanotype and Hand-coated Emulsions. These techniques proved both fascinating and challenging, allowing Daniel to develop his own artistic expression. He began showing his work at juried competitions and in several notable U.S. galleries, winning many awards along the way.

In 1997, Daniel moved to the British West Indies, where he established and taught at the first commercial black & white darkroom, while amassing a Caribbean portfolio. Upon returning to Vermont in 2002, the digital age was sweeping through the photo world. In defiance of the change, Daniel began to study the art of Daguerreotypy, under Mike Robinson at the George Eastman House. In order to make Daguerreotypes, Daniel had to design a new studio and lab, fabricating the necessary apparatus with the help of local craftsmen. Daniel was recently commissioned by Middlebury College to create a series of Daguerreotypes for its permanent collection.

Dagurerrotype print
Rail and ties. Daguerreotype by Daniel Kuczynski


The creation of a Daguerreotype is by far the most complex of all the historical processes I have practiced, yet its beauty and archival quality are worth the effort. A Daguerreotype is a reflection projected onto a plate of pure silver. After polishing the plate to achieve the finest surface, I sensitize the plate to the elemental vapors of Iodine and Bromine. Exposure is slow, from 4 seconds to 4-5 minutes, depending on sensitivity and subject. The exposed plate is then developed in the vapors of mercury, and fixed in hypo. If the plate is exceptional, it is gilded with Gold Chloride.

There is no one recipe for this process and no room for error. Each operator must determine numerous variables to achieve an extraordinary Daguerreotype.

Great care must be exercised to achieve success and ensure safety. When asked why I go to such effort to obtain one Daguerreotype, I tilt the image back and forth in the light, watching the tonality changes, capturing an almost holographic reflection unlike any other medium. It is truly a sight to behold.

See more work in Daniel Kuczynski’s gallery.

1 thought on “Daniel Kuczynski and daguerreotypes”

  1. Your work is great.

    To me this is the most beautiful photographic process ever. I have pledged that one day I will do this process. In the meantime, messing around with mercury vapors is beyond my current lab and safety equipment setup. But one day…

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