A Mormon Image: A Photograph of Joseph?
Some believe that this image is a photograph of the Prophet Joseph Smith. If they are right, it is the only known photographic image of Joseph . . .
According to his son, Joseph Smith III, the Prophet had a daguerreotype made in Nuavoo shortly before his death. A daguerreotype is a very early and primative form of photography that was just becoming available in the 1840s. We know that a Mormon convert in Nauvoo could produce daguerreotypes and he set up a studio and began advertising in the original Times and Seasons shortly after Joseph’s murder. Daguerreotype were very small, about the size of a postage stamp, and Joseph Smith III claims to have had such a daguerreotype of his father. In 1879 he made a copy of the daguerreotype by photographing it. Some claim that this image, now in the Library of Congress, is that photograph. It is much larger than the original daguerreotype would have been, hence the grainy quality. In addition, some of the hair and clothing has been touched up with a pencil or paint. Some skeptics claim that this is a photograph of a painting, probably this one, rather than of a daguerreotype. Defenders of the daguerreotype thesis, however, point to some striking details. For example, there is a small scar on the upper lip of the photograph. We know that Joseph had such a scar as a result of his beating by a mob in Ohio that tried to foce poison through his clenched lips. In addition, the pupils in the photograph are dialted to different widths, a natural reaction to raking light, but one that painters don’t often pick up on.
Bottom line, this is a disputed image, but there is a good chance that you are looking at a photograph of Joseph Smith.