the chemist
sixth plate


We don't know for sure the occupation of this young gentleman - he may be a chemist, a druggist, a photographer's assistant, or maybe the photographer himself. It has been suggested that he is preparing a mixture of rottenstone and turpentine to be used to polish daguerreotype plates. However, what is more intriguing, is not what he is doing but what he is wearing. Note his crushed hat, the dirt on his collar, the torn jacket at the elbow and the jacket pulled through the buttonhole. This imagery probably conveyed a distinct message to 19th century Americans, or at least to the sitter and photographer. As we look back at the pose in the image, we can only guess as to what was going on.

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