Display of Photographic Studio Equipment, ca. 1865

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Portrait photographs in the 1850s and 1860s required subjects to sit motionless for exposures often lasting twenty to sixty seconds. To aid in this formidable task, head clamps and sit-still apparatus, as depicted in this tintype, were common to early photographic studios.

“The public dreaded going to the gallery almost as much as to the dentist.” One observer wrote, “Glare, bareness, screens, iron instruments of torture, and a smell as of a drug and chemical … a photographer’s operating room is always something between a barn, a green-room, and a laboratory.”

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