Tuesday, August 19, 2014

175 Years of Daguerreotype

It has been 175 years since Louis Daguerre introduced photography to the world. The Giroux daguerreotype apparatus is photography's first camera manufactured in quantity.

Giroux daguerreotype camera, 1839. Alphonse Giroux, Paris, France. Gift of Eastman Kodak Company, ex-collection Gabriel Cromer. (Image via George Eastman House Blog)

In 1829, Daguerre partnered with Nicéphore Niépce, an inventor who had produced the world's first heliograph in 1822 and the first permanent camera photograph four years later. Niépce died suddenly in 1833, but Daguerre continued experimenting, and evolved the process which would subsequently be known as the Daguerreotype. After efforts to interest private investors proved fruitless, Daguerre went public with his invention in 1839. At a meeting of the French Academy of Sciences on 7 January of that year, the invention was announced and described in general terms, but all specific details were withheld.

Under assurances of strict confidentiality, Daguerre explained and demonstrated the process only to the Academy's perpetual secretary François Arago, who proved to be an invaluable advocate. Members of the Academy and other select individuals were allowed to examine specimens at Daguerre's studio. The images were enthusiastically praised as nearly miraculous, and news of the Daguerreotype quickly spread. Arrangements were made for Daguerre's rights to be acquired by the French Government in exchange for lifetime pensions for himself and Niépce's son Isidore; then, on 19 August 1839, the French Government presented the invention as a gift from France "free to the world", and complete working instructions were published.

Click here to learn more about Daguerre and the Daguerreotype photographic process.

For more about the history of photographic technology, check out the book Camera: A History of Photography from Daguerrotype to Digital.

(Information via George Eastman House Blog and Wikipedia)

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