About the Exhibition

A White House on Paradise Street

17th June – 2nd September 2017
Jo Gane in collaboration with Pete James and Leon Trimble

This project is inspired by the absence of what has been claimed by some writers to be the first photographic image made in Birmingham and potentially the first image made in England using the daguerreotype process*1. The image is said to have depicted a White House on Paradise Street and is thought to have been made by George Shaw in late August or early September 1839.

This new artwork by Jo Gane in collaboration with photographic historian Pete James and digital artist Leon Trimble combines historic and contemporary techniques to extend the latent possibilities of this missing image.

Daguerreotype camera modified with Raspberry Pi

In response to research by Pete James, the exhibition places small time-machine camera devices around the city in locations relevant to key moments and events in the early history of photography in Birmingham. These devices are constructed using historic techniques in mahogany by master cabinetmaker Jamie Hubbard, to resemble the Wolcott daguerreotype camera patented in 1840. Leon Trimble has hacked the cameras with Raspberry Pi’s, making them able to live stream analogue images from inside the camera back into the gallery space and online. As time machines, these devices mine the contemporary landscape to make visible the history of the city’s role as the ‘midwife to the birth of photography’*2 in the early 19th Century.

Design drawings of modified daguerreotype cameras, by Jamie Hubbard

Alongside the live streams of indistinct, soft images from within the camera devices, which are reminiscent of even earlier attempts to produce photographic images a series of sharp, detailed new Daguerreotypes by Jo Gane produced at Mike Robinson’s Century Darkroom render fragments of what may have been visible on Shaw’s original Daguerreotype plate into focus within this new digital landscape, inspired by fragments of the past.

*1 Daguerreotypes are one of the first methods of making a photograph invented in August 1839 by Louis Daguerre in Paris, using a highly polished sheet of silver plated copper which is made light sensitive by fuming over iodine then developed with hot mercury before gilding with a gold chloride solution to produce one-off images that appear as if they are a ‘mirror with a memory’.

*2 from Birmingham Reminisces (Second Series) ‘The Pioneers of Photography in Birmingham,’ Birmingham Daily Mail, 28th January 1880

Project Credits

A White House on Paradise Street is part of Developed In Birmingham, a season of events and activities about early photography being held in Birmingham from June-September 2017.

The ‘A White House on Paradise Street’ Working Group

Lead artist: Jo Gane

Photographic Historian: Pete James
Digital technology: Leon Trimble

Woodworking: Jamie Hubbard
Daguerreotypist: Mike Robinson
3D Visualisation: Coral Manton
Graphic Design: Kerry Leslie
Web Design: Seb Lenton
Project management: Jenny Duffin
Exhibition construction: Matt Foster

Project Partners

Birmingham Open Media (BOM)
Colmore Business District
Birmingham Museum
Great Western Arcade
Queens College Chambers