The Silver Sunbeam by Bill Westheimer

$3,750.00 - Please contact 23 Sandy for current availability.
In 1864 the world was fascinated with the new technology of photography. Images were being captured in new and exciting ways, reality was being fixed using light and chemistry. Artists and enthusiasts and alchemists were experimenting with all sorts of ways to create photographic images. John Towler M.D. wrote “The Silver Sunbeam” a ground breaking book of recipes for the first handbook of photographic processes. He subtitled it “A Practical and Theoretical Text-Book on Sun Drawing and Photographic Printing: comprehending all the Wet and Dry Processes at present known, with Collodion, Albumen, Gelatine, Wax, Resin and Silver; as also Heliographic Engraving, Photolithography, Photozincography, Celestial Photography, Photography in Natural Colors …….” Digitized versions of the 1864 original are available. It was a very special book and a rousing success “due to it’s remarkable comprehensiveness. There is hardly a single photographic process then known [in 1864] that is not described in such detail that any competent operator can work it now. It is a prime source of information about photographic technology in the formative years between 1839 and 1863.” (from the Morgan and Morgan reprint dust jacket.) Morgan and Morgan published a reprint of the book in 1969 which can usually be found on Amazon despite being out of print.

- See more at:

Edition of ten, the book is 3D printed in a translucent PLA resin with a wet-plate tintype on the front and sealed inside is a USB flash drive holding the PDF of the 1864 edition encased in a facsimile of the book. The 3D printed hinged box is hand rubbed silver patinated PLA resin with a unique glass plate photogram in the cover.

Artist Bio

A born experimenter Bill Westheimer was raised in Cincinnati and began playing with photographic processes at age 14. He was introduced to the magic of the darkroom in the mid 1960’s and has never looked back at the conventional, average, normal, and routine approaches to image making. Beginning with a darkroom in a 3rd floor bathroom, Bill mastered developing and printing black and white photographs in his teens. He experimented with making 3-D holograms before he could drive. Bill also explored high contrast image making, solarization, and other alternative processes in those early years. While still in high school Bill and 3 partners operated a lightshow business that accompanied nationally known rock and roll bands. Their FlavorScope lightshow company became the house lightshow at Cincinnati’s premier concert hall - the Ludlow Garage - and worked with bands such as The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, BB King, The MC5, Vanilla Fudge, Bitter Blood Street Theater, and many other marquee name bands of the era. The lightshow tapped into Bill’s love of alternative processes and experimental image making. He created abstract slide shows, hand drawn 16mm film loops, and other experimental background lighting image making techniques. At Union College Bill studied philosophy and art. He studied with noted painter and educator Arnold Bittelman. Westheimer also studied scientific photography techniques while at Union. He continued with his experiments in photography while completing college. Later Westheimer studied with Jerry Burchfield who introduced him to color photograms and Cibachrome (now Ilfochrome) printing. Bill went on to teach Cibachrome printing at Colorado Mountain College in Aspen. Early in this millennium he learned the 19th century technique of collodion glass plate photography from the leading experts in the field: France Scully and Mark Osterman. Bill lives and works in West Orange, New Jersey in a converted 1885 carriage house that includes a modern darkroom and digital printing studio. Recent work includes 3D printed photo based sculptures, artist books, and photograms made on collodion glass plates, Ilfochrome and gelatin silver media. He collaborated on a camera obscura project with Charles Schwartz documenting the city of New York, and continues his Manual Project – The Personalities of Hands. His works are exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide.