Anonymous Portrait of a Soldier Hand-colored salt print from wet collodion negative on original mount 8 1/4 x 6 Inches
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A successor to the daguerreotype, the salt print had the advantage of greater size. The advantage of being easily reproduced also made it attractive for soldiers, who could offer copies to friends, parents, sweethearts, or wives. Salt print photos generally required a studio setting, with a finer backdrop and skillful painting. We can surmise that the salt prints were made before campaigns began or during a leave. Many were made as “Enlistment” photographs, celebrating the sitter's initial pride in joining the army. Undoubtedly there were many cases where the sitter for a photograph did not survive to return home, and the family was left with this final remembrance, cherished at home perhaps for several generations. The hand-coloring of the photograph was a matter of choice for the client, and of course involved additional cost. They were framed usually in a walnut shadow frame or gilt gesso, and this again was an additional cost to the client. In the intervening years, many photos have become separated from the frames, which can often seen in antique shops bearing a mirror or a popular litho-print.