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Louis Daguerre

A daguerreotype of Louis Daguerre himself, made in 1844 Photography was invented in 1827 by Nicéphore Niépce, but the quality of photographic images was greatly improved by another Frenchman, the artist and photographer Louis Daguerre (1787–1851). He worked in partnership with Niépce from 1829 until his death in 1833, continuing to develop his new photographic process that would later be known as the daguerreotype. Daguerre’s photograph of an artist’s studio became the world’s first fully successful photograph in 1837.

Daguerre's photo of his studio, 1837


Niépce's photographs required camera exposures lasting for hours or days. Daguerre then made the important discovery that an extremely faint image created by a much shorter exposure could then be chemically "developed" into a visible image. Daguerre's photographs, called daguerreotypes, were made on copper plates coated with silver iodide, which are highly sensitive to light, fixed (made insensitive to further exposure to light) with ordinary salt.

Louis Daguerre also invented a picture-viewing device called a diorama in 1823. It consisted of a piece of material painted on both sides. When illuminated from the front, one scene could be viewed; the other replaced it when the illumination came from behind. The scenes were normally "before and after" views, e.g. a scene in daylight then in moonlight.

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