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J. P. Ball was a remarkably skilled photographer, as this extraordinary daguerreotype demonstrates. In the bright light of full day, Ball produced an image with beautiful tones and contrasts that even captures a sense of movement without the tell-tale blurring of a long exposure time. The resolution and detail in the photograph is exceptional, and such effects required a practitioner who had both the talent to compose a shot and the technical mastery to bring it off, both in preparing the plate and in understanding all the conditions of light and subject matter. Ball’s mastery of the process explains why he was such a successful portrait photographer, too.

We cannot know for certain, but it is likely that Myers and Company commissioned J. P. Ball to make this portrait of their business, probably from a sense of pride at is success ― hence the delivery under preparation and the sense of activity. While not exactly a documentary photograph, because it was probably made on commission and not to record historical facts, early images such as this of city life are rare, and J. P. Ball executed this one with great skill.

The best scholarly work on James Presley Ball is by Deborah Willis: J. P. Ball: Daguerrean and Studio Photographer (Routledge, 1993).