Louis Daguerre (photographer)



2015-06-26 10:37:55

Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre (1787-1851) was a French artist and physicist, known for inventing the daguerreotype process of photography.

Life and career

Daguerre apprenticed in architecture, theatre design and panoramic painting. His instinct for theatrical illusion led him to develop the Diorama theatre.

His work with Nicephore Niepce developing the heliograph led Daguerre to evolve the process into the Daguerreotype, one of the most significant developments in photographic processing in the history of photography. It disposed of the ridiculously long exposures of hours or days previously required to capture an image, down to a mere ten to twenty minutes or so. He also made the important discovery that even a faint latent image captured by a shorter exposure could be chemically developed into a visible image.

The Daguerreotype image is a direct positive made in the camera on a silvered copper plate. These plates were soft and sensitive, so almost immediately sealed under glass before being framed or mounted. The process, announced to the public in 1839, became the first photographic process to be commercially successful.

Daguerre is known today as being one of the fathers of photography. Henry Fox Talbot’s almost simultaneous development of the silver chloride sensitive paper process, announced later the same year, mark 1839 as the year photography was born.

Celebrated Photographs

  • L’Atelier de l’artiste (1837)
  • Boulevard du Temple (1838)
  • Street view, London (1839)
  • Portraits of Daguerre himself (circa 1840s)
  • Arrangement of Fossil Shells (1837-9)

Did you know?

Daguerreotypes are generally portraits. Landscape views and other subjects are very rare, much sought after by collectors, and sell for higher prices than the portraits and human studies. Particularly items with historical interest, such as landscapes taken during the California Gold Rush, are particularly desirable. However, Daguerreotypes of famous historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Edgar Allen Poe, and Charles Dickens are also extremely valuable, being so fragile and unique.

If framed, a daguerreotype image was likely taken in France. If mounted in a small folding case, more likely in England or America.

Daguerre’s own daguerreotypes are unimaginably valuable, being the very acts upon which the entire history of photographic process rested. However, most of his own early images were destroyed in a fire in his Paris studio in 1839.

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