224 years ago, on Nov. 18, 1787, Louis Daguerre was born. Daguerre, a digital media pioneer, was the man who invented the first reliable photography process, or what was known back then as the daguerreotype.
Daguerre was born in Northern France and even though he lived after the Renaissance, he was truly a “Renaissance man.” He apprenticed in architecture, theatre design and panoramic painting. He was also a skilled illusionist and invented the Diorama.
Honored with a Google Doodle on his birthday, Louis Daguerre was the Steve Jobs of his day, as photography was the emerging technology of the age. With an eye for capturing life, Daguerre developed the photography technique as a way to capture images he saw with his camera obscura. The technique he developed was unveiled in 1839 to crowds of eager scientist and artists. Ultimately, the French Government acquired Daguerre’s patent and offered it as a gift, “free to the world.”
The Invention of Photography
Back then, photographs were captured on metal plates, also called Tintypes. Daguerre experimented with the process for several years, often showing his work off to other artists in hopes of wooing investors to his idea. Daguerre didn’t truly invent the process, but he did refine and make it reliable. The first permanent photograph was created by Nicéphore Niépce. His process was long and laborious – it took about eight hours to produce a photograph and then the picture quality was extremely poor.
“Boulevard du Temple“, was the first photograph of one or more persons. The image was taken by Daguerre in Paris, in 1838. The ten minute exposure captures only still objects – including a shoe-shine boy and his customer at the bottom left, and two people sitting at a table nearby – who stood still long enough to have their likenesses immortalized.
Niépce learned about Daguerre and became partners with him in 1829. Daguerre continued the photography experiments the two were working on after Niépce’s death in 1833 – and that’s what resulted in the daguerreotype - the forerunner of modern photography. Today, only about 25 of Daguerre’s photographs survive; the majority of his legacy was lost in a fire that destroyed his studio and first Diorama in 1839.
Photography has advanced a lot in 200 years. Today photos are digital and can be shared with the world in an instant. Taking good digital photographs or learning your DSLR camera settings can be challenging. Lke Daguerre learned, you have to keep working at it to create a legacy.
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