Saturday, March 28, 2009

3. What’s happening now…

I have to start off by explaining a few things that I left out from the two previous blogs. I wanted to explain why I haven’t released the entire image and what direction I am taking it right now. A couple of days ago I was able to meet with Richard E. Turley who is the LDS Assistant Church Historian and Recorder and is Managing Director of the Family and Church History Department. I showed him my photo of Joseph and we discussed various theories of how it and other images could have come into play. While I cannot speak for the LDS Church or their representative, I can say at the time he could not disprove my theories or the photo. I enjoyed talking with him and being able to show him what work I have done as of yet and getting his feedback. With his invitation, our next step is to take it to Salt Lake and allow the Church History Department to examine it further. So for the time being my plan is to not release a full digital image of my photo.

I also wanted to share a few more things I noticed with the Death Mask Comparison. I had a few questions as to why I didn’t take the mask to the bottom of his face in the picture. I also had a realization as to why many others could not get the death mask to fit the image from the Library of Congress photo. Unfortunately when I was visiting Gracia Jones, I only had my cell phone camera with me. I knew that when I photographed images at close range it always gave them a barrel distortion. Luckily Photoshop has a lens correction applet and I used it correct the death mask photo I had taken. I noticed that any kind of distortion could offset the features and how easily the mask and photo would not match. Another thing that I noticed was that in my image there was a distinctive chin line that appeared to be shadowed.

I read accounts of Joseph Smith Jr. having gained some weight in his face and body and then referred to various profile paintings done of him, one of which is a painting done by the artist Sutcliffe Maudsley. This artist would shine a light in front of his subject and trace an outline, thus creating a true to life profile. I noted that Maudsley’s work showed Joseph with a rather full chin; it looks as though it was almost at a forty-five degree angle. In my photograph, Joseph’s high white collar almost hides the full spectrum of his chin and jaw bone. (I wish these collars were in style now, I sure could use one.) The shadow in my photo is almost a perfect and identical shape of the death mask. Anyone who has played with a camera and taken pictures of themselves lying down knows that it is almost like an instant face lift because of gravity.

My conclusion: previous attempts of death mask comparisons were off because of photo distortion and an over enlarged photo to fit his full chin/neck.

Please feel free to leave comments on the comment link below.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

2. Death Mask Comparison

I thought that it would be interesting to do a side by side comparison of my Joseph Smith photo with his death mask.
The only difference that stands out in this image is his nose, which I believe they stuffed with cotton prior to casting the mold.

A personal thank you to Gracia Jones for allowing me to examine and photograph her mask. To those who don't know, Gracia Jones is a well known author, historian, and direct decedent of Joseph and Emma Smith.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

1. How it all started

I must admit that up until a few weeks ago I never knew that there was even a controversy over the photo of Joseph Smith Jr. which is owned by the Library of Congress. Maybe I should first start by explaining where this crazy journey began for me. About twelve years ago while visiting my grandmother, the conversation of genealogy came up. She handed me a book of various copied journal accounts of some of our pioneer ancestors. I found looking through it very fascinating and intriguing, then I turned to a rather odd page. There were yellow newspaper images and a few small stories about the LDS Prophet Joseph Smith Jr. In the corner on the page sealed under a small plastic cover sat a photo. The thin silver gray photo was matted on a slightly larger piece of card stock and had been well preserved. Written underneath this photo were the words "Copy of the Original Tintype". I asked my grandmother about the curious photo. She explained that it was a photo of Joseph Smith Jr. and that she had received it many years prior. It was her belief that during a photo session possibly by Lucien Foster that two photos were taken. I believe that she said the LDS Church had one of them and that the other belonged to a non-LDS man.

Looking back now I realize that my dear grandmother may have been mistaken. Not about the image in the photo but about whether anyone else was in possession of this or any other actual unedited image copied from a daguerreotype picture of the Prophet. Attempting to learn the truth I contacted the LDS Historical Library a couple of weeks ago. I told them of the carte-de-viste photo and what I believed it to be. Being hesitant to send the entire image digitally, I sent a sliced version done in Photoshop. A couple days later I received an email .

It was their belief that what I had was a carte de viste of a sketch done by the Utah artist Danquart Weggeland. Being an artist myself this did not sit well with me. I found what picture I believed they were talking about and did a digital comparison in Photoshop. I found that the lines of the drawing did not match at all or the style of hair for that matter.

For further comparison I used the image from the Library of Congress. I noticed that indeed the two images matched except for some artistic editing and enhancement work that had clearly been done. I noted that the artist had done some painted work on Joseph's eyes especially his left eye (pictured on the right side of the photo). Perhaps it was done to balance his face and make it appear not so uneven. The artist also cleaned the lines of his jacket for a more tailored look and touched up areas of the photo that appeared to be overexposed. I believe in doing this, they changed the true nature of his face and overall appearance. Having done portrait work for many years I know that it is the most of minor details that create the true likeness.

Now again the true nature of the Library of Congress photo comes into play. Some believe it is just a reproduction of the painting owned by the RLDS Church and possibly painted by the artist named Majors. I thought in that instance I would do some comparisons. First I compared one of just the left eye from my photo, the Library of Congress photo and a picture of the RLDS painting (in that order from the bottom up). Notice the middle picture has an over exaggerated iris and the pupil appears to be slightly off center. I believe this is the work of a photo editing artist. The lower lid has an unnatural plunge to compensate for the exaggeration. The lines of the upper lid remain the same although darkened. The top eye is from the RLDS painting and the iris appears to be more in proportion as well as the lower lid. The upper lid however, has been given a different square-like appearance, especially on the outside corner.

The second comparison of the RLDS painting and my photo show that the entire jacket outline has been changed and lowered. This again is the work of an artist to create more symmetry and elongate the painting. It appears that the original daguerreotype may have been used as a reference for the RLDS painting. The Library of Congress photo appears to be a post edited version of the photo I was given. I am again waiting to hear back from the LDS Church History Library as far as the information they have acquired. I will post more later when information becomes available.

Please note: The image header on my blog is copyrighted by me, the artist.