The First Photograph • Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (1765-1833)

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce.
View from the Window at Le Gras.
Heliograph, in original frame.
25.8 x 29.0 cm.

Harry Ransom Center
University of Texas at Austin

Long before the first public announcements of photographic processes in 1839, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, a scientifically-minded gentleman living on his country estate near Chalon-sur-Saône, France, began experimenting with photography. Fascinated with the craze for the newly-invented art of lithography which swept over France in 1813, he began his initial experiments by 1816. Unable to draw well, Niépce first placed engravings, made transparent, onto engraving stones or glass plates coated with a light-sensitive varnish of his own composition. These experiments, together with his application of the then-popular optical instrument, the camera obscura, would eventually lead him to the invention of the new medium.

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One thought on “The First Photograph • Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (1765-1833)

  1. I’ve seen this image before in my photograpy book. Niepce would be amazed to see how far we have come since then. Eight hours, plus years of prior testing, he must have been a very patient man. I don’t know that we would have been able to last that long trying to create this same image in the almost “instant” world that we find ourselves in today.

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