2: Not One, But Two

Another photograph, called by some the “Scannel” photograph, has more recently surfaced that has garnered a bit of attention. Though being of that group of photos associated with the prophet but not officially identified as such, the photo (as it undoubtedly is a photo) has caused many professionals to do a double take, which reaction is also true of myself.

Young Joseph Original

Proponents of this image truly being that of Joseph Smith have speculated that it was taken in late 1839 or early 1840, when Joseph Smith was in the area of Washington D.C. to seek redress for the persecutions in Missouri. Evidence has shown that the brand new technology of photography would have been a popular social topic in that area at that very time; in fact, a daguerreotype portrait studio was set just a couple blocks from the place where Joseph was staying while in the nation’s Capital.

The reason for the stress of such an early date is partly to account for the comparatively emaciated appearance of Joseph in the photo, especially when compared to the other image we have of him. Joseph was in Liberty Jail, Missouri, from December of 1838 to April of 1839 during which time he was physically malnourished. Only six months later in October he left for Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, probably still relatively thin from his imprisonment. The image discussed in the last page would have been taken later in Nauvoo, according to Joseph Smith III, when Joseph was quite a bit healthier (we can refer to these two images as the “early” Joseph and “later” Joseph images).

Thinness aside, the very first thought that came to me when I saw the early image was, “Well, if this is Joseph, the print is backwards” (daguerreotypes were often printed backwards [laterally-reversed] if a reversing mirror or prism was not used, common in early settings). If we account for this by reversing the image laterally, we get to see a new face, even a more familiar face.

reversal demo

If we examine the details of this newly corrected image, we discover some striking parallels to the later image of the prophet:

Both the early and later photos demonstrate the same rounded hairline on his right (green) and squared hairline on his left (blue).
Both photos show the shallowness of the temple region on his right and straightness of the temple on his left (blue; also possibly due to known hairline damage); Joseph’s right eye has a deep line beneath the bottom eyelid on both photos, as well as a damaged/swollen left brow area, and the same bridge shape (all in green).
Though lighting and camera angle are slightly different (lighting more so), the left cheek is smoother or lowered in both photos when compared to the right cheek, and the angle of the jawline (where visible) is exactly the same; the slight ‘s’ shape to his lips is the same, as too is the shape of the nose and the sharp corner of his left nostril.

The differences are those aspects of the later image of Joseph that seem unusual, but which can be accounted for by other factors, such as: the different hair styles (again, the possibility too of a pompadour), the different chin and cheek appearances due to weight gain, the lack of nose prominence, etc. Take a look for yourself in full scale below.


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