Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The First ever Photograph!

Flickr like photo galleries have brought together millions of people and has become a social information explosion. All these without many words other than the captions. I can travel through someones mind and a country side thousands of miles away! The number of photographs on those sites are exaggerating! and I would not even attempt to count! But what brought my attention was the first photograph ever taken. The first ever step to creating this social phenomenon.
I found this information on University of Texas at Austin online exhibition! and something everybody should see and learn! Please visit the exhibition and you will learn much more about this great creation.
Here is the Photograph's reproduction and chronology as presented by the University of Texas at Austin.

Helmut Gernsheim & Kodak Research Laboratory, Harrow, England.
Gelatin silver print with applied watercolor reproduction of Joseph
Nicéphore Niépce's View from the Window at Le Gras.
March 20-21, 1952.
Gelatin silver print and watercolor.
20.3 x 25.4 cm.
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.

In 1824 Niépce met with some degree of success in copying engravings, but it would be two years later before he had success utilizing pewter plates as the support medium for the process. By the summer of that year, 1826, Niépce was ready. In the window of his upper-story workroom at his Saint-Loup-de-Varennes country house, Le Gras, he set up a camera obscura, placed within it a polished pewter plate coated with bitumen of Judea (an asphalt derivative of petroleum), and uncapped the lens. After at least a day-long exposure of eight hours, the plate was removed and the latent image of the view from the window was rendered visible by washing it with a mixture of oil of lavender and white petroleum which dissolved away the parts of the bitumen which had not been hardened by light. The result was the permanent direct positive picture you see here -- a one-of-a-kind photograph on pewter. It renders a view of the outbuildings, courtyard, trees and landscape as seen from that upstairs window.

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce and the First Photograph

  • 1765 - March 7 - Joseph Nicéphore Niépce is born in Chalon-sur-Saône

  • 1785 - Death of his father, Claude, a former King's counselor and deposits collector for Chalonnais.

  • 1786 - Begins his studies at the Oratoire in Angers.

  • 1788 - Leaves the Oratoire and enlists in the National Guard in Chalon-sur-Saône.

  • 1789 - The French Revolution begins.

  • 1792 - Enlists in the Revolutionary Army, serving as a second lieutenant in the 42nd Infantry Regiment. In the next two years he will serve in southern France, Italy, and in the Sardinian Campaign.

  • 1793-4 - During their service in Cagliari, Sardinia, he and his older brother, Claude, first conceive of the idea of fixing images from the Camera Obscura.

  • 1794 - Completion of his military service.
      - August 4 - Marriage to Agnes Roméro in Nice.
      - Claude leaves army and comes to join the family in Nice.

  • 1795-1801 - Serves on the District Commission of Nice.

  • 1795 - Birth of his son, Isidore.

  • 1798 - Joseph and Claude begin their first collaboration: working on a combustion engine.

  • 1801 - Returns with his family and Claude to Chalon-sur-Saône in order to manage the family estate for his ailing mother.

  • 1807 - The two brothers receive a ten-year patent, signed by Napoleon, for their invention of the first internal combustion engine, called the Pyréolophore. Early tests in a model boat on the Saône River are successful.

  • 1811 - Investigates woad plant cultivation as a substitute for indigo.

  • 1813 - First experiments with lithography, light-sensitive substances, and the mechanical reproduction of images. Also begins searching regional quarries for better stones for his lithographic experiments.

  • 1814 - Financial difficulties with running the estate force him to take out the first of many loans on his properties.

  • 1816 - His first documented experiments of what could be termed a "photographic" nature. The use of a camera together with silver chloride on paper produces a negative image but he is unable to fix it in order to stop it from fading.
      - Claude leaves for Paris to promote their Pyréolophore invention.

  • 1817 - A year of intense experimentation with both various chemicals and improvements in camera design.
      - Claude departs for England to promote the Pyréolophore.

  • 1818 - He improves Drais's design for the bicycle.
      - He tries to obtain a positive image utilizing Wollaston's camera lucida.
      - He also experiments in camera with Guaiacum resin which exhibits a change of solubility when exposed to light.

  • 1820 - The first promising results in fixing images. By this time he is experimenting with bitumen of Judea and other resins on stone and glass surfaces.

  • 1822 - July - His first notable success is the creation of a negative contact print on bitumen-coated glass derived from an etching of Pope Pius VII. The glass negative is later destroyed during an attempt to produce a positive image.

  • 1824 - Many important successes: He produces contact copy images of engravings and drawings upon a variety of surfaces, including copper, glass and stone. He also produces, with an exposure time of about five days, the first camera view (point de vue) from the upper window upon a lithographic stone surface (which apparently has also not survived) - and writes Claude that the results are "faint" but that the effect is "magical."
      - Also his first attempts at taking his bitumen images on copper plates and etching them with the aqua fortis method. His goal is to create etched plates which may be used for the mass productions of prints on paper.
      - Unfortunately, by this time his estate is in deep financial difficulties and he is forced to continue taking out loans.

  • 1825 - Attempting to improve his camera image, he orders lenses from the Paris optician, Charles Chevalier. Later that year Chevalier will inform Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, the Parisian painter and dioramist, about Niépce and his experiments.
      - Begins working with Augustin Lemaitre, a Parisian etcher, to find a way to use his etched plates to make good prints on paper.
      - Wedding of his son, Isidore, to Eugénie de Champmartin.

  • 1826 - Earliest possible date in which all the elements come together - the pewter plate, the bitumen of Judea coating, and the improved camera optics - so that he could produce the first permanent photograph from nature. The "View from the Window at Le Gras" is made from an upper window of his home looking out ironically upon the outbuildings and courtyard of his heavily mortgaged estate.
      - His earliest known application of the term "heliography" to his work.
      - He receives his first letter from Daguerre and establishes a guarded correspondence.

  • 1827 - Latest possible date for the creation of the First Photograph.
      - The journey to England: When word reaches Joseph of Claude's grave illness, he and Agnes travel to England to visit him, stopping first in Paris where he meets Daguerre. He also takes along several examples of his heliographic experiments to show his brother. While there, he establishes a friendship with botanist Francis Bauer, FRS, at Kew. He writes a brief piece, Notice sur l'Heliographie, for Bauer to present, along with the heliographs, to a meeting of the Royal Society requesting their financial support for the process. His request is turned down, ostensibly because Niépce is not willing at the time to reveal the formula for his process to the Society.

  • 1828 - January - Joseph and Agnes bid farewell to his ailing brother and leave England. Shortly before his departure he leaves some plates - including the First Photograph - the Cardinal d'Amboise print, and the original heliography manuscript with Bauer, in the hope that the botanist can help further his case to be recognized in Britain.
      -February - Claude dies in England at about the same time that Niépce returns to Le Gras.
      - Joseph begins his first experiments with polished silver plates, experimenting with the fumes of iodine to help darken the latent image and unexposed areas. This will later form the major basis for Daguerre's process, the daguerreotype.
      - For the first time he seeks to relieve his constantly mounting debt by selling several properties and lands.

  • 1829 - The beginning of much more extensive correspondence with Daguerre.
      - He continues experimentation with silver and silver-plated copper plates and iodine fumes, obtaining images in the relatively brief time of 30 minutes.
      - He plans to publish a comprehensive account of the heliographic process but is dissuaded by Daguerre.
      -December 14 - Signs a collaborative agreement with Daguerre.

  • 1830 - His attempts to obtain direct positive camera images fail because of an inability to bleach out the bitumen.
      -June - Daguerre visits him for two weeks.

  • 1831 - He goes back to experimenting with many other types of resins.
      - He is forced to sell properties close to home in his village of Saint-Loup- de-Varennes.

  • 1832 - June - Daguerre visits again.
      - The partners invent a process called the Physautotype that utilizes a distillate of lavender oil as the photosensitive agent and produces images in fewer than 8 hours.
      -November - Daguerre returns to work with him on various processes.

  • 1833 - July 3 - Joseph Nicéphore Niépce dies of a sudden stroke at his home. At the time of his death none of his inventions have been officially acknowledged.

  • 1839 - Daguerre unveils the daguerreotype process. Together with William Henry Fox Talbot's revelation in England of "photogenic drawing" the two inventions mark the public's acceptance of this date as the announcement of photography.
      - Daguerre is awarded a lifetime stipend from the French Academy of Science for making the process available "free to all." In actuality, it is only free in France, Daguerre reserving all licensing rights for the rest of the world. In view of his still extant agreement with Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, the son, Isidore, is granted a much smaller stipend.

  • 1840 - Death of Francis Bauer at Kew.

  • 1841 - November 24 - At the sale of Bauer's estate, the Niépce materials - including the First Photograph - are purchased by a fellow botanist, Dr. Robert Brown, FRS.

  • 1858 - Upon the death of Brown, the Niépce materials are purchased by his assistant, John J. Bennett.

  • 1884 - April - Following Bennett's death his estate is auctioned off. Two friends and associates - the photographer, Henry Peach Robinson, and the Editor of the Photographic News, Henry Baden Pritchard - purchase and divide up all the Niépce artifacts. Robinson acquires the three non-camera heliographs and one of the prints of the Cardinal D'Amboise. Pritchard acquires three artifacts: the other print of the Cardinal, Niépce's original manuscript on heliography, and the First Photograph.
      -May 11 - Two weeks after the purchase of the Niépce pieces, Pritchard dies unexpectedly of pneumonia.

  • 1885 - The Niépce artifacts are borrowed from the Pritchard family to be shown in the Photography Section (Group XXIX) of the International Inventions Exhibition in London.

  • 1898 - The Niépce artifacts belonging to the Pritchards are borrowed again and displayed (alongside Robinson's Niépce possessions) in the Historical Section of the Royal Photographic Society's International Exhibition, at the Crystal Palace at Sydenham.

  • 1901 - After the death of H.P. Robinson, his Niépce holdings are inherited by his son, Ralph Waldo Robinson.

  • 1917 - After the death of Pritchard's widow, the Niépce artifacts belonging to the Pritchard family are placed in a trunk with other family belongings and stored in a warehouse in London. Their significance and location are subsequently forgotten.

  • 1924 - Ralph W. Robinson places the Niépce artifacts that his father had acquired with the Royal Photographic Society.

  • 1947 - Helmut Gernsheim begins his search for the First Photograph.

  • 1950 - Answering an appeal by Gernsheim as published in The Observer, Henry Baden Pritchard's son informs him that the family had owned the object but that it was lost when it was not returned after the 1898 exhibition.
      -July - Gernsheim closes his search for the historic photograph and writes an article for The Photographic Journal summarizing his investigations into Niépce's heliographs in Great Britain.

  • 1952 - Following the death of Pritchard's son, his widow discovers the forgotten trunk and its contents. She informs the Gernsheims and invites them to see the Niépce artifacts.
      -February 14 - The Gernsheims see the Niépce pieces for the first time and confirm their authenticity. They receive all three artifacts, including the First Photograph, as a gift from Mrs. Pritchard.
      -April 15 - Gernsheim announces the rediscovery of the First Photograph in The London Times and the story carries the first reproduction of the famous image.
      -September - The Gernsheims exhibit the First Photograph at the World Exhibition of Photography in Lucerne, Switzerland -- the first time the treasure has been on public display in over 50 years.

  • 1963 - The Gernsheims sell their Photography Collection to the Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin. They then donate the three Niépce artifacts, including the First Photograph, to the Center.

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