World Photography Day

Education

8/24/21

World photography day is a celebration of the date the first publicly available photography process was given to the world.  We observe world photography day on August 19 every year. 

Daguerreotype Process and Gift To the World

Daguerreotype is a process that was created by France’s Louis-Jacques-Mande’ Daguerre in 1837.  His concept was sold to the French Academy of Sciences.  The French Academy of Sciences gifted the process to the world on August 19, 1839.  

In 1988 OP Sharma, a well respected Indian photographer, came up with the idea of world photography day when he kept running across the date in various publications on the history of photography.  It was recorded as the date on which the then French government announced the invention of the Daguerreotype process of photography as a ‘free gift to the world’.  Sharma proposed the idea to several masters and photographers around the world including the RPS and Photographic Society of America (PSA).  In 1991 a unanimous decision was made and celebrating the date began. 

Louis Daguerre

More About Louis Daquerre and The Process

Louis Daguerre was an artist and physicist who became a famous theatre designer. He was the business partner of inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, whose heliography method is the forebear of the photographic process. Niépce’s image View From The Window At Le Gras, recorded on a polished sheet of pewter plate coated with light-sensitive bitumen in 1826, is the earliest surviving permanent image from nature. 

Following Niépce’s death, Daguerre developed his own unique process in 1837. The daguerreotype method was a positive image recorded on a copper plate coated with silver iodide. Latent images produced in-camera were developed by exposure to mercury vapor, and were then fixed by a strong salt solution.

Daguerre sold his process to the French Academy of Sciences in exchange for an annual pension of 6,000 francs and an annual stipend of 4,000 francs to the Niépce estate. On January 7, 1839 the process was announced.  Full details were given ‘free to the world’ on 19 August that year – except in Great Britain.  In Great Britain a patent was filed by Daguerre’s agent. 

Each daguerreotype was unique and couldn’t be reproduced except by re-photographing the image or the scene itself. The process quickly became very popular even though not easily duplicated.

Daguerre took one of the earliest daguerreotype pictures from his apartment window in Paris in 1838.  This image is called Daguerre’s View Of The Boulevard du Temple and is a unique example of early street photography. It includes the first known recorded image of a human being.  It is interesting to note because the image only shows the man’s legs and feet.  The street otherwise seems empty.  However, it was a busy street in Paris!  The 10-15 minute exposure time for this type of process meant nothing stayed still long enough to be captured.  The man’s legs and feet were captured because he was getting his shoes shined so his lower half was still.  

While Daguerreotype was not the first process to capture an image that did not fade it was the first publicly available photographic process!

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