BOY WITH UPHOLSTERER'S HAMMER
Sixth-plate daguerreotype by an unidentified photographer, circa 1850
It is hard to think that this is an ordinary portrait commissioned by the parents of this child. Rather, it seems likely that this artfully-posed image was created as a dramatic commentary about the difficulty daguerreian artists encountered trying to make portraits of restless children. The boy, seated on the floor, uses an upholsterer's tack hammer to strike a threaded rod from a woodworking clamp, implying motion. His shirt--half on and half off--drives home the point that the photographer has lost control. The strong narrative sense of this image, bordering on allegory, represents a sophisticated understanding of photography's potential for visual communication.
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