Photograph Found

a 20 year perspective


It is hard to believe that we are approaching 20 years since Chad, Jim and I first released Photograph Found: A Concise History of the Joseph Smith Daguerreotype.

The following book (reproduced on this website) has for many years, been out-of-print.  A truncated version has been available on the internet and in booklet form.  As of this writing, the internet version has been visited over 190,500 times and the booklet has been reproduced 10,000 times; but the original book has only been available from used-and-rare LDS dealers.  As of late, there has been an increased request for the larger research, first written at the prompting of Elder Lorin C. Dunn (now deceased) of the LDS Church’s Historical Department.

Since the release of this image and our research, several alleged photographs of Joseph Smith have surfaced.  All have been money making ventures.  My father used to caution me, “Beware of Mormons making money off of Mormons.”  I would offer the same advice to any Latter-day Saint in possession of a checkbook.  And, remind them of Matthew 10:7-9 and perhaps more “Latter-day Saint-edly” Moses 6:58.  Let’s blame the economy.

Lastly, it is impossible to re-read old writings and not improve grammar and clarify vagueness.  I have also improved several illustrations and should improve others.  The extensive footnotes and additional materials still need to be added; one thing at a time.  As always we offer our findings as a gift to those who wish to receive them, with this reminder:  A photograph of Joseph Smith is at best a novelty. The true measure of the man remains in the testimony of the Restored Gospel that he left the world.  We encourage those who study this work to keep their perspective and in the end, make up their own mind as to his physical image, but never allow their testimony of the Restoration to be clouded by the smoke and mirrors of personal opinions.  Opinions change with the wind.

Enjoy the journey!

And thanks for your continued interest.

© 1993 – 2009 Reed Simonsen, all rights reserved. Permission is granted to make copies and distribute this book provided that it is copied in its entirety, proper credit is given and no profit results from it.

The following document is not a publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints nor was it commissioned, or in any way influenced by the Church or any other organization or body.  The authors alone are responsible for all contents.

Website Introduction

Above:  A photographic copy of an original daguerreotype taken of Joseph Smith Jr., in Nauvoo just before his death.  It was submitted to the Library of Congress in 1879 by his son Joseph Smith III.  Daguerreotype photography will be explained in the following document, but it is important to realize a daguerreotype is a unique image that can only be duplicated by being re-photographed.  Daguerreotypes were generally small, sometimes only 2 x 3 inches.  The image above is an 8 x 10 albumen print which would be an obvious enlargement of the small daguerreotype.  It is possible that the photographer cropped or zoomed in on a part of the daguerreotype to frame more of the face for his albumen reproduction.

     This 1879 reproduction was done with equipment that by today’s standards would seem quite primitive.  It has been retouched around the hair, coat, on the cravat -- or necktie -- and the vest.  The face seems free of any artistic retouching, but there is an overall “grainy” quality that causes the image to be less than one might expect from a photograph.  This “graininess” is probably due to the gross enlargement from the original daguerreotype, however there is a startling photographic quality to the eyes.

     This photo may be all that is left of the original image, as the daguerreotype has not been found.  It was good that Joseph Smith III saw the need to safeguard his father’s photograph with this copy so that over 100 years later we can now see what Joseph Smith really looked like.

     Experts from a variety of disciplines have closely studied this photograph and their exciting conclusions are discussed in this document.  (Original Introduction 1993)