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Martin Jurgens

Visual Arts, De Montfort University

Thesis title:

Redefining the origins of photomechanical printing: etching, electrotyping and multiplying daguerreotypes in Europe from 1839 to 1860

My research aims to challenge a fundamental ‘given’ in photographic history: the common concept of the daguerreotype’s uniqueness. This understanding derives from the photographic plates being individually prepared and exposed in the camera, and no multiple prints being possible. However, a number of practitioners devised methods of converting daguerreotypes into printing plates for creating images in ink on paper: they were etched, engraved, electroplated, electrotyped, or the image was transferred in gelatine or cast in plaster. This enabled the multiplication of images with what might be considered the earliest photomechanical printing processes. The converted daguerreotype, in fact, set the stage for the later photogravure, photolithography, and relief printing.

Interfacing the fields of history of science and history of art, this project links physical objects with their textual history: My methodology will consist of historical literature research and examination of original materials in heritage collections, followed by hands-on re-creation of the processes, and finally comparative instrumental analysis to study the physical differences between printing techniques.

This approach aims to expand historians’ and conservators’ current canon of photomechanical printing. I am looking for a fundamental change in how we view daguerreotypes, namely not only as unique early photographs, but also as a proto-photomechanical multiplication technique. As materials-based knowledge challenges text-based photo history, the gulf between conservators and historians of photography and printing would be bridged, and a new field might evolve: that of technical photo history.

Research Area

  • Photography History, Theory and Practice
  • Visual Arts


Jürgens, Martin, Lénia Fernandes, and Ioannis Vasallos. 2018. 'Joseph Berres’s Phototyp: Printing Photography in the Service of Science', in: The Rijksmuseum Bulletin 66 (2018)/2, pp. 144-169.

Jürgens, Martin. 2009. The Digital Print, Thames & Hudson.


American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC)

International Council of Museums - Conservation Committee (ICOM-CC)