- Category : Art-Photography
- Type : MGP
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Contagion 4
Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (18 November 1787 – 10 July 1851) was a French artist and physicist, recognized for his invention of the daguerreotype process of photography. He became known as one of the fathers of photography. Though he is most famous for his contributions to photography, he was also an accomplished painter and a developer of the diorama theatre.
Daguerre was born in Cormeilles-en-Parisis, Val-d'Oise, France. He apprenticed in architecture, theatre design, and panoramic painting with Pierre Prévost, the first French panorama painter. Exceedingly adept at his skill of theatrical illusion, he became a celebrated designer for the theatre and later came to invent the Diorama, which opened in Paris in July 1822.
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. It has recently been discovered that Daguerre may have misled Niepce's son about the value of the invention in order to better claim any profits from it individually. 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.
Daguerre died on 10 July 1851 in Bry-sur-Marne, 12 km (7 mi) from Paris. A monument marks his grave there.
Daguerre's name is one of the 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel tower.
Development of the Daguerreotype
In 1826, prior to his association with Daguerre, Niépce used a coating of bitumen to make the first permanent camera photograph. The bitumen was hardened where it was exposed to light and the unhardened portion was then removed with a solvent. A camera exposure lasting for hours or days was required. Niépce and Daguerre later refined this process, but unacceptably long exposures were still needed.
After the death of Niépce in 1833, Daguerre concentrated his attention on the light-sensitive properties of silver salts, which had previously been demonstrated by Johann Heinrich Schultz and others. For the process which was eventually named the Daguerreotype, he exposed a thin silver-plated copper sheet to the vapor given off by iodine crystals, producing a coating of light-sensitive silver iodide on the surface. The plate was then exposed in the camera. Initially, this process, too, required a very long exposure to produce a distinct image, but Daguerre made the crucial discovery that an invisibly faint "latent" image created by a much shorter exposure could be chemically "developed" into a visible image. The latent image on a Daguerreotype plate was developed by subjecting it to the vapor given off by mercury heated to 75° Celsius. The resulting visible image was then "fixed" (made insensitive to further exposure to light) by removing the unaffected silver iodide with concentrated and heated salt water. Later, a solution of the more effective "hypo" (hyposulphite of soda, now known as sodium thiosulfate) was used instead.
The resultant plate produced an exact reproduction of the scene. The image was laterally reversed—as images in mirrors are—unless a mirror or inverting prism was used during exposure to flip the image. To be seen optimally, the image had to be lit at a certain angle and viewed so that the smooth parts of its mirror-like surface, which represented the darkest parts of the image, reflected something dark or dimly lit. The surface was subject to tarnishing by prolonged exposure to the air and was so soft that it could be marred by the slightest friction, so a Daguerreotype was almost always sealed under glass before being framed (as was commonly done in France) or mounted in a small folding case (as was normal in the UK and US).
Daguerreotypes were usually portraits; the rarer landscape views and other unusual subjects are now much sought-after by collectors and sell for much higher prices than ordinary portraits. At the time of its introduction, the process required exposures lasting ten minutes or more for brightly sunlit subjects, so portraiture was an impractical ordeal. Samuel Morse was astonished to learn that Daguerreotypes of the streets of Paris did not show any people, horses or vehicles, until he realized that due to the long exposure times all moving objects became invisible. Within a few years, exposures had been reduced to as little as a few seconds by the use of additional sensitizing chemicals and "faster" lenses such as Petzval's portrait lens, the first mathematically calculated lens.
The Daguerreotype was the Polaroid film of its day: it produced a unique image which could only be duplicated by using a camera to photograph the original. Despite this drawback, millions of Daguerreotypes were produced. The paper-based calotype process, introduced by Henry Fox Talbot in 1841, allowed the production of an unlimited number of copies by simple contact printing, but it had its own shortcomings—the grain of the paper was obtrusively visible in the image and the extremely fine detail of which the Daguerreotype was capable was not possible. The introduction of the wet collodion process in the early 1850s provided the basis for a negative-positive print-making process not subject to these limitations, although it, like the Daguerreotype, was initially used to produce one-of-a-kind images—ambrotypes on glass and tintypes on black-lacquered iron sheets—rather than prints on paper. These new types of images were much less expensive than Daguerreotypes and they were easier to view. By 1860 few photographers were still using Daguerre's process.
The same small ornate cases commonly used to house Daguerreotypes were also used for images produced by the later and very different ambrotype and tintype processes, and the images originally in them were sometimes later discarded so that they could be used to display photographic paper prints. It is now a very common error for any image in such a case to be described as "a Daguerreotype". A true Daguerreotype is always an image on a highly polished silver surface, usually under protective glass. If it is viewed while a brightly lit sheet of white paper is held so as to be seen reflected in its mirror-like metal surface, the Daguerreotype image will appear as a relatively faint negative—its dark and light areas reversed—instead of a normal positive. Other types of photographic images are almost never on polished metal and do not exhibit this peculiar characteristic of appearing positive or negative depending on the lighting and reflections.
Competition with Talbot
Unbeknownst to either inventor, Daguerre's developmental work in the mid-1830s coincided with photographic experiments being conducted by Henry Fox Talbot in England. Talbot had succeeded in producing a "sensitive paper" impregnated with silver chloride and capturing small camera images on it in the summer of 1835. At least one of those images still survives. Talbot was unaware that Daguerre's late partner Niépce had obtained similar small camera images on silver-chloride-coated paper nearly twenty years earlier. Niépce could find no way to keep them from darkening all over when exposed to light for viewing and had therefore turned away from silver salts to experiment with other substances such as bitumen. Talbot, a gifted amateur chemist, was able to chemically stabilize his images sufficiently to withstand subsequent inspection in daylight with only a very limited degree of discoloration.
When the first reports of the French Academy of Sciences announcement of Daguerre's invention reached Talbot, with no details about the exact nature of the images or the process itself, he assumed that methods similar to his own must have been used and promptly wrote an open letter to the Academy claiming priority of invention. Although it soon became apparent that Daguerre's process was very unlike his own, Talbot had been stimulated to resume his long-discontinued photographic experiments, which eventually resulted in the calotype process, introduced in 1841. Like a sensitized Daguerreotype plate, but unlike Talbot's earlier "sensitive paper", better known as "salted paper", the calotype paper had to be exposed in the camera only long enough to produce a very faint or completely invisible image which was then chemically developed to full visibility. The negative image that resulted was made insensitive to light by treatment with "hypo", dried, then used to make one or more positive prints on salted paper by contact printing in sunlight.
Daguerre's agent in England applied for a British patent just days before France declared the invention "free to the world". Great Britain was thereby uniquely denied France's free gift and became the only country where the payment of license fees was required. This had the effect of inhibiting the spread of the process there, to the eventual advantage of competing processes which were subsequently introduced. Antoine Claudet was one of the few people legally licensed to make Daguerreotypes in Britain. Daguerre's pension was relatively modest—barely enough to support a middle-class existence—and apparently this British "irregularity" was allowed to pass without adverse consequences or much comment outside of the UK.
By contrast, resentment and negative comments certainly resulted when the independently wealthy Talbot, who had spent a considerable amount of money in developing his calotype process (about £5,000, equivalent to £378,000 as of 2013), did not make a similar general gift of it to mankind, or at least to his own countrymen, but opted to emulate Daguerre's UK policy and require the purchase of licenses for its use. This inhibited the widespread adoption of the calotype process as an alternative to the Daguerreotype in the UK. Eventually, Talbot relented and required licenses only from professional photographers using the process for portraiture. Talbot also gained a reputation for litigiousness, suing several subsequent inventors whose processes he believed to infringe the broad claims made in some of his own British patents.
In the spring of 1821, Daguerre partnered with Charles Bouton with the common goal of creating a Diorama theatre. Daguerre had expertise in lighting and scenic effects, and Bouton was the more experienced painter. Together they made an astounding team. Their strengths made extraordinary contributions to art, theatre, and science. However, Bouton eventually withdraws, and Daguerre acquires sole responsibility of the diorama theatre.
The first diorama theatre was built in Paris, adjacent to Daguerre’s studio. The first exhibit opened July 11, 1822 showing two tableaux, one by Daguerre and one by Bouton. This would become a pattern. Each exhibition would typically have two tableaux: one by Daguerre and Bouton each. Also, one would be an interior depiction, and the other would be a landscape. Daguerre hoped to create a realistic illusion for an audience. He wanted audiences to not only be entertained, but also awe-struck. The diorama theatres were magnificent in size. A large translucent canvas, measuring around 70 ft wide and 45 ft tall, was painted on both sides. These paintings were vivid and detailed pictures and were lit from different angles. As the lights changed, the scene would transform. The audience would begin to see the painting on the other side of the screen. The effect was awe-inspiring. “Transforming impressions, mood changes, and movements were produced by a system of shutters and screens that allowed light to be projected- from behind- on alternately separate sections of an image painted on a semi-transparent backdrop” (Szalczer).
Because of its size, the screens had to remain stationary. Since the tableaux were stationary, the auditorium revolved from one scene to another. The auditorium was a cylindrical room and had a single opening in the wall, similar to a proscenium arch, through which they could watch a “scene”. Audiences would average around 350, and most would stand, though limited seating was provided. Twenty-one diorama paintings were exhibited in the first eight years. These included ‘Trinity Chapel in Canterbury Cathedral’, ‘Chartres Cathedral’, ‘City of Rouen’, and ‘Environs of Paris’ by Bouton; ‘Valley of Sarnen’, ‘Harbour of Brest’, ‘Holyroodhouse Chapel’, and ‘Roslin Chapel’ by Daguerre.
The Roslin Chapel was known for a few legends involving an unconsuming fire. The legend goes that the Chapel has appeared to be in flames, just before a high status death, but has later shown no damage from any such fire. This chapel was also known for being unique in its architectural beauty. Daguerre was aware of both of these aspects of Roslin Chapel, and this made it a perfect subject for his diorama painting. The legends connected with the chapel would be sure to attract a large audience. Interior of Roslin Chapel in Paris opened September 24, 1824 and closed February 1825. The scene depicted light coming in through a door and a window. Foliage shadows could be seen at the window, and the way the light’s rays shined through the leaves was breath-taking and seemed to “go beyond the power of painting” (Maggi). Then the light faded on the scene as if a cloud was passing over the sun. The Times dedicated an article to the exhibition, calling it “perfectly magical”.
It became a popular new medium. Imitators arose. It is estimated that profit reached as much as 200,000 francs. This would require 80,000 visitors at an entrance fee of 2.50 francs. Another Diorama theatre opened in London, taking only four months to build. It opened September 1823. The most prosperous years were early to mid-1820s.
The dioramas prospered for a few years until going into the 1830s. Then, inevitably, the theatre burned down. The diorama had been Daguerre’s only source of income. At first glance, the event was tragically fateful. But the enterprise was already close to its end, thus losing the diorama tableaux was not completely disastrous, considering the funds granted under the insurance.
- Vocation : Art : Fine art artist (Painter)
- Vocation : Art : Photography (Pioneer)
- Notable : Famous : Founder/ originator (Originator of the daguerrotype)
- Notable : Book Collection : American Book