Long after it was taken, this
daguerreotype took on a special meaning in the history of photography. Thomas
Eakins grew up to become a painter and a photographic pioneer. He joined
Eadweard Muybridge in the study of motion. Later, he designed a machine that
was a model for the movie projector. All that aside, the picture is very
similar to hundreds of daguerreotypes in the Smithsonian's collections.
The daguerreotypists carried
on the traditions of painted portraits. The sitters were often shown with attributes -- objects
that helped to express identity. The bow and arrow that Thomas is holding was
a common symbol of masculinity for boys.
The photographer tinted the
picture by hand. Here, as in many pictures, we see the art of photography
straining against the limits of the technology. The wish to show life in all
its color was always there.