|Daguerre, Louis Jacques
Daguerre (pronounced Dagair) was perhaps the most famous of several people who invented photography.
He began work as an apprentice architect, and at the age of sixteen was an assistant stage designer in a Paris theatre, his elaborate stage designs winning him considerable acclaim, He developed an impressive illusions theatre, which he termed Diorama; it was a picture show with changing light effects and huge paintings measuring 22 by 14 metres, of famous places. This became the rage in the early twenties.
He regularly used a camera obscura as an aid to painting in perspective, and this had led him to seek to freeze the image. In 1826 he learned of the work of Nicephore Niépce, and on 4 January 1829 signed up a partnership with him.
The partnership was a short one, Niépce dying in 1833, but Daguerre continued to experiment. He made an important discovery by accident. In 1835, so the story goes, he put an exposed plate in his chemical cupboard, and some days later found, to his surprise, that the latent image had developed. Daguerre eventually concluded that this was due to the presence of mercury vapour from a broken thermometer. This important discovery that a latent image could be developed made it possible to reduce the exposure time from some eight hours to thirty minutes.
Though he now knew
how to produce an image, it was not until 1837 that he was able to fix
them. This new process he called a Daguerreotype.
From the day the announcement was made of this new discovery, the process came to be used widely. The claim was made that the daguerreotype "requires no knowledge of drawing...." and that "anyone may succeed... and perform as well as the author of the invention."
Taken in 1839, this
picture of a boulevard gives the impression of empty streets, because
with long exposures moving objects would not register.
In 1851 Daguerre died. In a sense this symbolically ended an era, for that very same year a new technique was invented, which was another milestone in photography - the wet collodion process by Frederick Scott Archer.