self-portrait by Robert Cornelius
Is it weird to have a crush on a dead man? Meh. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. I don’t really care. But I came across this image of Robert Cornelius and I am completely obsessed with him. As it turns out he was a major innovator in photography (go figure!). Born on March 1, 1809, he was a skilled metallurgist and chemist in Philadelphia. His skill was such that he was contacted by photographer Joseph Saxton to produce a silver plate to be used to photograph Central High School in Philadelphia in 1839. With this collaboration Robert’s love affair with photography had begun.
Central High School – Philadelphia as photographed by Joseph Saxton, 1839.
Most photographers at the time believed that, due to the long exposure time that was required, the medium could not be used for portraiture. But my gorgeous dead boyfriend, Robby, was keen to prove them wrong. In October of 1839 in front of his shop (which was located between Market and Chestnut on 8th street) my dear Robert took one of the first portraits (and a self-portrait at that) ever. (See the above portrait.)
Working with chemist Paul Beck Goddard, they discovered the use of bromide accelerated the photographic process. This success led to him opening the second commercial portrait studio in the United States. Sadly, he closed up shop in 1843 and shortly thereafter moved to a newly purchased country home. Robert Cornelius passed away in his home in 1893.
His country estate, Lawndale, is now Wissinoming Park. The large home and 80 acres was even frequented by his family friend, Abraham Lincoln, on numerous occasions. Many of the 4000 rare and beautiful trees he planted have long since died due to neglect but the estate is still standing and serves as a clubhouse .
My gorgeous dead boyfriend is pretty badass. Yup. Totally swoon worthy.
Kisses & Chaos,
Alli Woods Frederick