Most famous for producing the world’s first known permanent photograph in 1825, French inventor Nicéphore Niépce was one of the pioneering inventors of photography. Niépce’s first photograph, entitled, “View from the Window at Le Gras,” was taken at Saint-Loup-de-Varennes, capturing the view of his roof and the surrounding countryside of his estate from his very own upstairs window. His photograph was taken with a camera obscura and was the product of an impressive 8-hour-long exposure process. Niépce ended up giving his precious work of magic to the British botanist Francis Bauer, though it was last publically exhibited in London in 1898 before it was absolutely forgotten about for approximately 50 years.
One of the founding fathers of photography, this French artist and physicist invented the daguerreotype process, by which a direct positive is made in the camera on top of a silvered copper plate, similar to the reflection of a mirror. Daguerreotypes are typically quite easy to distinguish, as the final image disappears as soon as one tilts the physical photograph to a side angle.
William Henry Fox Talbot:
British inventor William Henry Fox Talbot’s most well-known contribution to photography
was his invention of the calotype process, a precursor to those later photographic processes of the 19th and 20th centuries. Though the terms negative and positive in relation to photography were later coined by John Herschel, it was Talbot’s original contributions which included the concept of a negative from which countless positive images could be processed and derived.
French photographer Hippolyte Bayard invented his very own process of “direct positive printing," presenting the world’s first public exhibition of photographs on June 24,1839. Bayard’s process, which resulted in a unique image that could not be reproduced, involved the exposure of silver chloride paper to light, afterwards soaking the black image in potassium iodide before being exposed in an actual camera. After the camera’s exposure, the paper was washed in a bath of hyposulfite soda and later dried. The photograph I chose above is Bayard’s Self Portrait as a Drowned Man.
Julia Margaret Cameron:
While this British photographer got her start in photography at the late age of 48, the impact of her work—most notably her keen knack for Arthurian portraiture—left its precedent on modern photography. Her love of capturing, or “arresting” all of the beauty which came before her was undoubtedly shown throughout her work. Over the short span of only a year after her introduction to a camera, Cameron was awarded membership in the Photographic Societies of London and Scotland.
Lady Clementina Howarden:
Daughter of Admiral Charles Elphinstone Fleeming, Lady Clementina Howarden was
most widely known for her portrait photography in the 1860s. While her photographic
works commenced in Ireland, those which have received the most recognition were her
characteristic portraits—which often included those of her ten children—which she took in
London after setting up her own studio within her home in South Kensington.
Though he went under the pseudonym of Nadar, Gaspard-Félix Tournachon was a French photographer, caricaturist, journalist, novelist and balloonist whose fame can be most attributed to his being the first person to take aerial photographs, as well as his pioneering usage of artificial lighting in photography while working in the catacombs of Paris. Nadar was also the creator of the appraised Revue Comique and Petit Journal Pour Rire in 1849.
Gustave Le Gray:
Often referred to as “the most important French photographer of the 19th century,” Jean-Baptiste Gustave Le Gray has been famed for his technical innovations in the still new medium of photography of his time, as well as his extraordinary imagination which he successfully brought into the world of picture making. Originally trained as a painter, he made his first daguerreotypes in 1847, including a plethora of scenery, including shots of the Fontainebleau Forest and the Chateaux of the Loire Valley.
Often referred to as “the photographer of freaks,” American photographer and writer Diane Arbus was made famous by her black-and-white photographic portrayals of society’s “outcasts.” Arbus saw the true beauty in what society deemed “human flaws,” as she is often noted for her captivating works of dwarfs, transgender peoples, nudists and circus performers.
One of this American writer’s most famous works, an essay, entitled, On Photography,
forever impacted the recipients of popular culture within the world of aesthetic expression.
In her essay, Sontag challenges the distortion of reality that is often times photography, claiming “In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge our notion of what is worth looking at and what we have the right to observe.” Susan Sontag is buried in Paris’ beloved Montparnasse Cemetery.
Annie Leibovitz (photographer of my choice):
American portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz has made numerous contributions to the glamorous world that is American Hollywood. Since her start as staff photographer for what was an up-and-coming Rolling Stone magazine in 1970, her intimate portrayal of Hollywood celebrity figures helped define the edgy look of the Rolling Stone that still graces every popular news stand and bookstore to this day. Her powerful, yet controversial shots of figures such as John Lennon and Yoko Ono helped land her The Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary Medal and Honorary Fellowship in 2009.