Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (French: [dagɛʁ]; 18 November
1787 – 10 July 1851), better known as Louis Daguerre, was a
French artist and photographer, recognized for his invention of the
daguerreotype process of photography. He became known as one of the
fathers of photography. Though he is most famous for his contributions
to photography, he was also an accomplished painter and a developer of
the diorama theatre.
2 Development of the daguerreotype
3 Competition with Talbot
5 Portraits and artworks of Louis Daguerre
6 See also
9 External links
Louis Daguerre was born in Cormeilles-en-Parisis, Val-d'Oise, France.
He was apprenticed in architecture, theatre design, and panoramic
painting to Pierre Prévost, the first French panorama painter.
Exceedingly adept at his skill of theatrical illusion, he became a
celebrated designer for the theatre, and later came to invent the
diorama, which opened in Paris in July 1822.
In 1829, Daguerre partnered with Nicéphore Niépce, an inventor who
had produced the world's first heliograph in 1822 and the oldest
surviving camera photograph in 1826 or 1827. Niépce died
suddenly in 1833, but Daguerre continued experimenting, and evolved
the process which would subsequently be known as the daguerreotype.
After efforts to interest private investors proved fruitless, Daguerre
went public with his invention in 1839. At a joint meeting of the
French Academy of Sciences
French Academy of Sciences and the
Académie des Beaux Arts
Académie des Beaux Arts on 7
January of that year, the invention was announced and described in
general terms, but all specific details were withheld. Under
assurances of strict confidentiality, Daguerre explained and
demonstrated the process only to the Academy's perpetual secretary
François Arago, who proved to be an invaluable advocate. Members of
the Academy and other select individuals were allowed to examine
specimens at Daguerre's studio. The images were enthusiastically
praised as nearly miraculous, and news of the daguerreotype quickly
spread. Arrangements were made for Daguerre's rights to be acquired by
the French Government in exchange for lifetime pensions for himself
and Niépce's son Isidore; then, on 19 August 1839, the French
Government presented the invention as a gift from France "free to the
world", and complete working instructions were published. In 1839, he
was elected to the
National Academy of Design
National Academy of Design as an Honorary
Daguerre died on 10 July 1851 in Bry-sur-Marne, 12 km (7 mi)
from Paris. A monument marks his grave there.
Daguerre's name is one of the 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel tower.
Development of the daguerreotype
"Boulevard du Temple", taken by Daguerre in 1838 in Paris, includes
the earliest known candid photograph of a person. The image shows a
busy street, but because the exposure had to continue for several
minutes the moving traffic is not visible. At the lower left, however,
a man apparently having his boots polished, and the bootblack
polishing them, were motionless enough for their images to be
An engraving of Daguerre during his career
In the mid-1820s, prior to his association with Daguerre, Niépce used
a coating of bitumen of Judea to make the first permanent camera
photographs. The bitumen was hardened where it was exposed to light
and the unhardened portion was then removed with a solvent. A camera
exposure lasting for hours or days was required. Niépce and Daguerre
later refined this process, but unacceptably long exposures were still
After the death of Niépce in 1833, Daguerre concentrated his
attention on the light-sensitive properties of silver salts, which had
previously been demonstrated by
Johann Heinrich Schultz
Johann Heinrich Schultz and others.
For the process which was eventually named the daguerreotype, he
exposed a thin silver-plated copper sheet to the vapour given off by
iodine crystals, producing a coating of light-sensitive silver iodide
on the surface. The plate was then exposed in the camera. Initially,
this process, too, required a very long exposure to produce a distinct
image, but Daguerre made the crucial discovery that an invisibly faint
"latent" image created by a much shorter exposure could be chemically
"developed" into a visible image. Upon seeing the image, the contents
of which are unknown, Daguerre said, "I have seized the light – I
have arrested its flight!"
The latent image on a daguerreotype plate was developed by subjecting
it to the vapour given off by mercury heated to 75 °C. The
resulting visible image was then "fixed" (made insensitive to further
exposure to light) by removing the unaffected silver iodide with
concentrated and heated salt water. Later, a solution of the more
effective "hypo" (hyposulphite of soda, now known as sodium
thiosulfate) was used instead.
The resultant plate produced an exact reproduction of the scene. The
image was laterally reversed—as images in mirrors are—unless a
mirror or inverting prism was used during exposure to flip the image.
To be seen optimally, the image had to be lit at a certain angle and
viewed so that the smooth parts of its mirror-like surface, which
represented the darkest parts of the image, reflected something dark
or dimly lit. The surface was subject to tarnishing by prolonged
exposure to the air and was so soft that it could be marred by the
slightest friction, so a daguerreotype was almost always sealed under
glass before being framed (as was commonly done in France) or mounted
in a small folding case (as was normal in the UK and US).
Daguerreotypes were usually portraits; the rarer landscape views and
other unusual subjects are now much sought-after by collectors and
sell for much higher prices than ordinary portraits. At the time of
its introduction, the process required exposures lasting ten minutes
or more for brightly sunlit subjects, so portraiture was an
Samuel Morse was astonished to learn that
daguerreotypes of the streets of Paris did not show any people, horses
or vehicles, until he realized that due to the long exposure times all
moving objects became invisible. Within a few years, exposures had
been reduced to as little as a few seconds by the use of additional
sensitizing chemicals and "faster" lenses such as Petzval's portrait
lens, the first mathematically calculated lens.
The daguerreotype was the Polaroid film of its day: it produced a
unique image which could only be duplicated by using a camera to
photograph the original. Despite this drawback, millions of
daguerreotypes were produced. The paper-based calotype process,
Henry Fox Talbot
Henry Fox Talbot in 1841, allowed the production of an
unlimited number of copies by simple contact printing, but it had its
own shortcomings—the grain of the paper was obtrusively visible in
the image, and the extremely fine detail of which the daguerreotype
was capable was not possible. The introduction of the wet collodion
process in the early 1850s provided the basis for a negative-positive
print-making process not subject to these limitations, although it,
like the daguerreotype, was initially used to produce one-of-a-kind
images—ambrotypes on glass and tintypes on black-lacquered iron
sheets—rather than prints on paper. These new types of images were
much less expensive than daguerreotypes, and they were easier to view.
By 1860 few photographers were still using Daguerre's process.
The same small ornate cases commonly used to house daguerreotypes were
also used for images produced by the later and very different
ambrotype and tintype processes, and the images originally in them
were sometimes later discarded so that they could be used to display
photographic paper prints. It is now a very common error for any image
in such a case to be described as "a daguerreotype". A true
daguerreotype is always an image on a highly polished silver surface,
usually under protective glass. If it is viewed while a brightly lit
sheet of white paper is held so as to be seen reflected in its
mirror-like metal surface, the daguerreotype image will appear as a
relatively faint negative—its dark and light areas
reversed—instead of a normal positive. Other types of photographic
images are almost never on polished metal and do not exhibit this
peculiar characteristic of appearing positive or negative depending on
the lighting and reflections.
Competition with Talbot
Unbeknownst to either inventor, Daguerre's developmental work in the
mid-1830s coincided with photographic experiments being conducted by
Henry Fox Talbot
Henry Fox Talbot in England. Talbot had succeeded in producing a
"sensitive paper" impregnated with silver chloride and capturing small
camera images on it in the summer of 1835, though he did not publicly
reveal this until January 1839. Talbot was unaware that Daguerre's
late partner Niépce had obtained similar small camera images on
silver-chloride-coated paper nearly twenty years earlier. Niépce
could find no way to keep them from darkening all over when exposed to
light for viewing and had therefore turned away from silver salts to
experiment with other substances such as bitumen. Talbot chemically
stabilized his images to withstand subsequent inspection in daylight
by treating them with a strong solution of common salt.
When the first reports of the
French Academy of Sciences
French Academy of Sciences announcement
of Daguerre's invention reached Talbot, with no details about the
exact nature of the images or the process itself, he assumed that
methods similar to his own must have been used, and promptly wrote an
open letter to the Academy claiming priority of invention. Although it
soon became apparent that Daguerre's process was very unlike his own,
Talbot had been stimulated to resume his long-discontinued
photographic experiments. The developed out daguerreotype process only
required an exposure sufficient to create a very faint or completely
invisible latent image which was then chemically developed to full
visibility. Talbot's earlier "sensitive paper" (now known as "salted
paper") process was a printed out process that required prolonged
exposure in the camera until the image was fully formed, but his later
calotype (also known as talbotype) paper negative process, introduced
in 1841, also used latent image development, greatly reducing the
exposure needed, and making it competitive with the daguerreotype.
Daguerre's agent Miles Berry applied for a British patent just days
before France declared the invention "free to the world". Great
Britain was thereby uniquely denied France's free gift, and became the
only country where the payment of license fees was required. This had
the effect of inhibiting the spread of the process there, to the
eventual advantage of competing processes which were subsequently
Antoine Claudet was one of the few people legally licensed
to make daguerreotypes in Britain. Daguerre's pension was relatively
modest—barely enough to support a middle-class existence—and
apparently this British "irregularity" was allowed to pass without
adverse consequences or much comment outside of the UK.
Diagram of the London diorama building
In the spring of 1821, Daguerre partnered with Charles Bouton with the
common goal of creating a diorama theatre. Daguerre had expertise in
lighting and scenic effects, and Bouton was the more experienced
painter. However, Bouton eventually withdrew, and Daguerre acquired
sole responsibility of the diorama theatre.
The first diorama theatre was built in Paris, adjacent to Daguerre's
studio. The first exhibit opened 11 July 1822 showing two tableaux,
one by Daguerre and one by Bouton. This would become a pattern. Each
exhibition would typically have two tableaux, one each by Daguerre and
Bouton. Also, one would be an interior depiction, and the other would
be a landscape. Daguerre hoped to create a realistic illusion for an
audience, and wanted audiences to not only be entertained, but also
awe-struck. The diorama theatres were magnificent in size. A large
translucent canvas, measuring around 70 ft wide and 45 ft
tall, was painted on both sides. These paintings were vivid and
detailed pictures, and were lit from different angles. As the lights
changed, the scene would transform. The audience would begin to see
the painting on the other side of the screen. The effect was
awe-inspiring. “Transforming impressions, mood changes, and
movements were produced by a system of shutters and screens that
allowed light to be projected- from behind- on alternately separate
sections of an image painted on a semi-transparent backdrop”
Because of their size, the screens had to remain stationary. Since the
tableaux were stationary, the auditorium revolved from one scene to
another. The auditorium was a cylindrical room and had a single
opening in the wall, similar to a proscenium arch, through which the
audience could watch a “scene”. Audiences would average around
350, and most would stand, though limited seating was provided.
Twenty-one diorama paintings were exhibited in the first eight years.
These included ‘Trinity Chapel in Canterbury Cathedral’,
‘Chartres Cathedral’, ‘City of Rouen’, and ‘Environs of
Paris’ by Bouton; ‘Valley of Sarnen’, ‘Harbour of Brest’,
‘Holyroodhouse Chapel’, and ‘Roslin Chapel’ by Daguerre.
The Roslin Chapel was known for a few legends involving an unconsuming
fire. The legend goes that the Chapel has appeared to be in flames
just before a high-status death, but has later shown no damage from
any such fire. This chapel was also known for being unique in its
architectural beauty. Daguerre was aware of both of these aspects of
Roslin Chapel, and this made it a perfect subject for his diorama
painting. The legends connected with the chapel would be sure to
attract a large audience. Interior of Roslin Chapel in Paris opened 24
September 1824 and closed February 1825. The scene depicted light
coming in through a door and a window. Foliage shadows could be seen
at the window, and the way the light’s rays shone through the leaves
was breathtaking and seemed to “go beyond the power of painting”
(Maggi). Then the light faded on the scene as if a cloud was passing
over the sun. The Times dedicated an article to the exhibition,
calling it “perfectly magical”.
Diorama became a popular new medium, and imitators arose. It is
estimated that profits reached as much as 200,000 francs. This would
require 80,000 visitors at an entrance fee of 2.50 francs. Another
diorama theatre opened in London, taking only four months to build. It
opened in September 1823. The most prosperous years were the early to
The dioramas prospered for a few years until going into the 1830s.
Then, inevitably, the theatre burned down. The diorama had been
Daguerre’s only source of income. At first glance, the event was
tragically fateful. But the enterprise was already close to its end,
thus losing the diorama tableaux was not completely disastrous,
considering the funds granted under the insurance.
Portraits and artworks of Louis Daguerre
Portrait of Louis Daguerre.
Portrait by Charles Meade, 1848.
Louis Daguerre in 1844 by Jean-Baptiste Sabatier-Blot.
The Ruins of Holyrood Chapel.
List of people considered father or mother of a field
^ "The First Photograph — Heliography". Retrieved 29 September
2009. from Helmut Gernsheim's article, "The 150th Anniversary of
Photography," in History of Photography, Vol. I, No. 1, January 1977:
... In 1822, Niépce coated a glass plate ... The sunlight passing
through ... This first permanent example ... was destroyed ... some
^ Stokstad, Marilyn; David Cateforis; Stephen Addiss (2005). Art
History (Second ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson
Education. pp. 964–967. ISBN 0-13-145527-3.
^ National Geographic, October 1989, pg. 530
^ "Daguerre". UC Santa Barbara Department of Geography. Retrieved 18
^ "'A State Pension for L. J. M. Daguerre for the secret of his
Daguerreotype technique' by R. Derek Wood". Archived from the original
on 11 September 2014. Wood, R.D., Annals of Science, 1997, Vol
54, pp. 489–506.
^ France, the UK and the US were all on the gold standard in 1839, so
currency conversions, based on the precious metal content of the
circulating gold coins, are simple and certain. 25 French Francs = 1
Pound Sterling = 4.85 US Dollars, plus or minus a couple of pence or
cents respectively. Daguerre's pension of 6000 Francs per annum =
£240 in contemporary English money, equivalent to £21,000 in 2016.
Use current exchange rates to convert this inflation-adjusted value
into present-day US Dollars, Euros or other currencies as desired.
Carl Edwin Lindgren. Teaching Photography in the Indian School. Photo
Trade Directory: 1991. India International Photographic Council.
Edited: N. Sundarraj and K. Ponnuswamy. VII IIPC-SIPATA Intl. Workshop
and Conference on Photography — Madras, p. 9.
R. Colson (ed.), Mémoires originaux des créateurs de la
photographie. Nicéphore Niepce, Daguerre, Bayard, Talbot, Niepce de
Saint-Victor, Poitevin, Paris 1898
Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, L.J.M. Daguerre. The History of the
Diorama and the Daguerreotype, London 1956 (revised edition 1968)
Beaumont Newhall, An Historical and Descriptive Account of the Various
Processes of the
Daguerreotype and the
Diorama by Daguerre, New York
Hans Rooseboom, What’s wrong with Daguerre? Reconsidering old and
new views on the invention of photography, Nescio, Amsterdam, 2010
Daguerre, Louis (1839). History and Practice of the Photogenic Drawing
on the True Principles of the
Daguerreotype with the New Method of
Dioramic Painting. London: Stewart and Murray.
Daniel, Malcolm. "Daguerre (1787–1851) and the Invention of
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art – Home. The
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. Web. 17 Jan 2012.
Gale, Thomas. “Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre.” BookRags. BookRags,
Inc., 2012. Web. 14 Apr 2012.
Kahane, Henry. Comparative Literature Studies. 3rd ed. Vol. 12. Penn
State UP, 1975. Print.
Maggi, Angelo. “Roslin Chapel in Gandy’s Sketchbook and
Daguerre’s Diorama.” Architectural History. 1991 ed. Vol. 42.
SAHGB Publications Limited, 1991. Print.
Szalczer, Eszter. “Nature’s Dream Play: Modes of Vision and August
Strindberg’s Re-Definition Of the Theatre.” Theatre Journal. 1st
ed. Vol. 53. Johns Hopkins UP, 2001..Print.
“Classics of Science: The Daguerreotype.” The Science News-Letter.
374th ed. Vol. 13. Society For Science & the Public, 1928. Print.
Watson, Bruce, "Light: A Radiant History from Creation to the Quantum
Age," (London and NY: Bloomsbury, 2016). Print.
Wilkinson, Lynn R. “Le Cousin Pons and the Invention of Ideology.”
PMLA. 2nd ed. Vol. 107. Modern Language Association, 1992. Print.
Wood, R. Derek. “The
Diorama in Great Britain in the 1820s”.
Annals of Science, Sept 1997, Vol 54, No.5, pp. 489–506 (Taylor
& Francis Group). Web.(Midley History of early Photography) 14 Apr
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Louis Daguerre.
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
Daguerre, Louis Jacques Mandé.
Daguerre (1787–1851) and the Invention of Photography from the
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Louis Daguerre and Bry-sur-Marne
Louis Daguerre Biography
Louis Daguerre (1787–1851) from World Wide Art Resources.
Daguerre, Louis Jacques Mande by Robert Leggat.
Daguerre and the daguerreotype An array of source texts from the
Daguerreian Society web site
Boulevard du Temple
Boulevard du Temple photograph – a discussion on its
making and subsequent history.
Daguerre Memorial in Washington D.C.
Louis Daguerre Encyclopædia Britannica
Daguerre in a historical context
Louis Daguerre at Project Gutenberg
Works by or about
Louis Daguerre at Internet Archive
19th-century French photographers
Antoine Samuel Adam-Salomon
Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard
Auguste Hippolyte Collard
Maxime Du Camp
Louis Arthur Ducos du Hauron
Jean Louis Marie Eugène Durieu
Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey
Jean-Baptiste Louis Gros
Gustave Le Gray
Henri Le Secq
Alphonse Louis Poitevin
Julien Vallou de Villeneuve
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