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Susse Frères

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Title: Susse Frères  
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Subject: Daguerreotype, History of the camera
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Susse Frères

The Susse Frères Daguerreotype camera was one of the first two commercial cameras ever made for the Daguerreotype photographic process.


On the 19th of August 1839, François Arago announced to the French Academy of Arts and Science the process of Daguerreotype. Two months before, on the 22nd of June 1839, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre signed a contract with two manufacturers which built the first cameras, his relative Alphonse Giroux and the Maison Susse Frères, Place de la Bourse 31, Paris.[1] In the contracts the two companies were given the exclusive rights to produce and sell the Daguerreotype and the other necessary equipment.[2]

The only existing Susse Frères daguerreotype camera made in 1839 is in exhibition today at Westlicht in Vienna, Austria. According to the expertise of Michael Auer the camera has a lens built by Charles Chevalier. The brass mount of the lens is engraved by hand: No3 and III. Which means is the third lens ever produced for a Daguerreotype camera by Chevalier. In the 19th Century it was common that every lens manufacturer numbered the lenses in order to keep a track on them. The lens with a diameter of 81 mm. has an aperture f15 and has a focal depth of 382 mm. The camera following the directions given by Daguerre is a full plate (6,5” x 8,5”) daguerreotype camera almost identical to the camera produce by the competitor company Alphonse Giroux et cie, the only visible differences are first the color of the camera, the camera built by Giroux is light brown (wood color) and the Susse Frères made out of softer wood is painted black, and the second difference is the brand stamp, while the camera built by Giroux has an oval lithographic stamp sign by Daguerre himself, with a golden frame and a red wax seal with the inscription any apparatus is warranted if doesn't have the signature of Mr. Daguerre and the seal of Mr. Giroux; the Susse Frères camera on the other hand has a very modest square lithography simply acknowledging Made according to the official plans given by Mr. Daguerre to the Ministry for the Interior. The prices of both cameras were also different while the Giroux had a selling price of 400 francs the Susse Frères was 350 francs. However the euphoria of the Parisians to acquire the Susse Frères camera shown by Théodore Maurisset in his lithography entitled La Daguerréotypomanie, the truth is that around 15 cameras from Giroux still exist while there is only one Susse Frères known.

The camera is essentially an attic find. It was originally owned by Prof. Max Seddig (1877–1963), who was the director of the Institute of Applied Physics in Frankfurt am Main and, among other things, godfather to the founding of the Josef Schneider Optical Works in Kreuznach. Seddig gave the camera to his assistant, Günter Haase, as a present. The latter was later Professor at the Department of Scientific Photography at the University of Frankfurt and, from 1970 on, occupied the Chair for Scientific Photography at the Technical University of Munich. Prof. Günter Haase died on February 20, 2006 at the age of 88 and left the camera to his son, Prof. Wolfgang Haase.


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