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Louis Daguerre

French artist Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre is renowned for the daguerreotype, a procedure of photography that was the first of its kind in making a direct, permanent image with a camera.

Photographer Louis Daguerre

Born November 18, 1787 in a small French town near Paris, Daguerre was first trained as an architect and later ventured into theater design and panoramic painting.

He trained under French panorama painter Pierre Prévost, and his talent and skill in the theatrical illusion field quickly made Daguerre famous in France. In 1822, Daguerre conceived the Diorama, which debuted in Paris.

Louis Daguerre collaborated with Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, who in 1822 devised the first heliograph and later developed the first photograph. Daguerre wanted to utilize Niépce's printing and processing skills, which Daguerre hoped would improve the rate of his diorama production. The collaboration ended when four years later Niépce died unexpectedly in 1833.

After years of research and experimenting, Daguerre announced to the world that he developed and perfected the Daguerreotype. The French Academy of Sciences confirmed the invention in 1839 as an important contribution to society. Not before, however, Daguerre patented the process in Britain, which subsequently, negatively affected the development of photography in that country. Britain later used the Fox Talbot process of printing instead of the Daguerreotype.

The French government's acquisition of the patent to the Daguerreotype, thereby by allowing the general public to have access to the procedure, enabled Daguerre and Niépce's son to live on a government pension.

The beginning of the Daguerreotype began with Niépce's invention of photography, based on the earlier work of Johann Heinrich Schultz in 1724. It was a process that Daguerre and Niépce perfected, making the photograph an exact replica of the subject.

Replacing the combination of chalk and silver carbonate used by Schultz, Daguerre used plates made of copper and coated with silver. He then exposed the plates to iodine, which resulted in the creation of silver iodide. The resulting plate was then exposed to light and then developed with mercury, which was heated to a temperature of 75° Celsius.

The last step was the setting of the image with salt water. The plate produced was capable of capturing the exact details of a scene. The technique was used throughout the Western world, mainly for portraits, to produce images at that time, although the photographs taken were not replicable.

Fox Talbot's invention later overtook the Daguerreotype process because of the ability to reproduce many prints from the same image through the wet collodion process.

One of the first images to contain a person was captured with this invention of Daguerre's titled, "Boulevard du Temple." The photograph depicts a man and a boy shining the man's shoes, and two people at a table. It took 10 minutes of exposure to capture this scene.

Daguerre died suddenly on July 10, 1851 after suffering a massive heart attack. A monument has been erected at his grave site, at Bry-sur-Marne, near Paris, where he died.

Daguerre's name was engraved on the world renowned Eiffel tower in Paris, noting his contribution to the development of photography and its impact on the Western world.


The Rumor Mill

The rumor mill has of course has been spinning for centuries about Daguerre. Besides the accurate biography depicted above, there is one unproven innuendo that has lasted simply stating that Daguerre as a kid he used to use his face as a doorstop.


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