For the next post in my A-Z of photography in our collection, I want to share with you one of our greatest treasures. Taken in 1843, the Hogg daguerreotype is the earliest known photograph of a photographer at work.
The daguerreotype shows Jabez Hogg, in the act of taking a photograph. Jabez Hogg (1817–1899) was a man of many talents—surgeon, microscopist, journalist and photographer.
In 1840 he entered the medical profession as an apprentice to another photographic pioneer, Dr. Hugh Welch Diamond. He was an active collaborator in Diamond’s photographic experiments and in 1843 wrote one of the first photographic instruction books, A Practical Manual of Photography, in which a woodcut reproduction of this daguerreotype was used as an illustration.
Also in 1843, Hogg joined the staff of the Illustrated London News and the same woodcut subsequently appeared in this magazine, accompanying a poem entitled Lines Written on Seeing a Daguerreotype Portrait of a Lady.
The caption tells us that the daguerreotype was taken at ‘Mr. Beard’s establishment, Parliament Street, Westminster’.
Richard Beard, a former coal merchant, had opened Britain’s first photographic portrait studio in London’s Regent Street in March 1841. The following year he opened two further London studios, one at 85 King William Street and the other at 34 Parliament Street.
According to a manuscript note on the back of the daguerreotype, the sitter is a ‘Mr. Johnson’. He is probably an American, William S. Johnson, the father of John Johnson who came to Britain in 1840 to assist Beard with some of the technical aspects of setting up his studio.
In the daguerreotype, Jabez Hogg can be seen timing the exposure with his pocket watch, having removed the lens cap which he holds in his other hand. Johnson Senior poses stiffly in an armchair, his hands tightly clenched as he tries not to move during the exposure which could last up to one minute.
In 1977 this daguerreotype was sold at auction to a German private collector for what was then a world record price for a single photograph of £5,800.
In 1983 it was bought by this museum, or rather the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, as we were then known. It is now on permanent display—come and see it in our Kodak Gallery.
Further reading and interesting links
- A short biography of Jabez Hogg with references for some obituaries
- Another brief biography of Jabez Hogg
- The complete text of Elizabeth Sheridan Carey’s poem Lines Written on Seeing a Daguerreotype Portrait of a Lady
- Jabez Hogg, A Practical Manual of Photography, London: E. Mackenzie, Cleave, Clark, 1845
- Stuart Bennett, ‘Jabez Hogg Daguerreotype’, History of Photography Vol 1, No 4 (October 1977) p. 318
- ‘Jabez Hogg and Mr. Johnson’, The Photographic Collector Vol 4, No 1 (Spring 1983), pp. 8–9