Heliography (in French, ''héliographie)'' from ''helios'' (Greek: ''ἥλιος'')'','' meaning "sun"'','' and ''graphein (γράφειν),'' "writing") is the photographic
process invented by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce
which he used to make the earliest known surviving photograph from nature, View from the Window at Le Gras
(1826 or 1827), and the first realisation of photoresist
as means to reproduce artworks through inventions of photolithography
Niépce prepared a synopsis of his experiments in November 1829: ''On Heliography, or a method of automatically fixing by the action of light the image formed in the camera obscura'' which outlines his intention to use his “Heliographic” method of photogravure or photolithography as a means of making lithographic
master plates for multiple printed reproductions.
He knew that the acid-resistant Bitumen of Judea
used in etching hardened with exposure to light. In experiments he coated it on plates of glass, zinc, copper and silver-surfaced copper, pewter and lithographic stone, and found it resisted dissolution in oil of lavender
, so that the uncoated shadow areas could be traditionally treated through acid etching
to print black ink.
The exposed and solvent-treated plate itself, as in the case of ''View from the Window at Le Gras,'' presents a negative
or positive image dependent upon ambient reflection, not unlike the daguerreotype
which was based on Niépce's discoveries.
Bitumen has a complex and varied structure of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
(linked benzene rings
), containing a small proportion of nitrogen
; its hardening in proportion to its exposure to light is understood to be due to further cross-linking of the rings, as is the hardening of tree resins (colophony
, or abietic acid
) by light, first noted by Jean Senebier
in 1782. The photochemistry
of these processes, which has been studied by Jean-Louis Marignier of Université Paris-Sud
since the 1990s, is still to be fully understood.
The word has also been used to refer to other phenomena: for description of the sun (cf. geography
), for photography in general, for signalling by heliograph
(a device less commonly called a heliotrope
or helio-telegraph), and for photography ''of'' the sun.
[Descriptions of the sun, photography in general, and signalling by heliotrope: ''Oxford English Dictionary'' 2nd ed. (1989) s.v. "Heliography". Photography of the sun: As used by and in discussion of Hiroshi Yamazaki.]
The abbreviations ''héliog.'' or ''héliogr.'', found on old reproductions, may stand for the French
word ''héliogravure'', and can then refer to any form of photogravure.
Art & Architecture Thesaurus, s.v. "heliography"
Accessed 10 December 2007.
Harry Ransom Center. The University of Texas at Austin. ''The First Photograph''
Accessed 10 December 2007.
An Improved Method in the Art of Signalling for Military & Scientific Purposes (1887)
Accessed 1 June 2008.
Category:Audiovisual introductions in 1822
Category:1820s in art
Category:1820s in science
Category:Photographic processes dating from the 19th century