World’s oldest photograph

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce’s “View from the Window at Le Gras” (1826)


The following article  appeared in Blouin Artinfo on August 2, 2012.


Joseph Nicéphore Niépce’s “View from the Window at Le Gras” (1826), known as the world’s earliest surviving photograph, is to be shown in Mannheim at the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, the museum announced to the press on Monday. Housed normally in the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, the photograph was last exhibited in Europe on 1961. Niépce’s tin plate photograph will be shown as part of the exhibition “The Birth of Photography: Milestones from the Gernsheim Collection,” opening on September 9, 2012.

“This is like the Mona Lisa or the Blue Mauritius,” the exhibition’s curator, Claude Sui told the press, with regard to the unique nature of the image. However, Niépce’s process at the time didn’t resembled anything that we would consider photography today, or what Louis Daguerre, Niépce’s partner for the last four years of his life, from 1829-1833, would later develop based on some of their experimentations, the Daguerreotype. Still, in our image-overwhlemed contemporary society, this is a rare chance to view the very beginning of what we now take for granted while we indisciminantly Instagram into infamy parties, exhibitions, and sandwiches.

Remarkably, “View form the Window at Le Gras” was lost for over 50 years after being exhibited in London, just before the turn of the 20 century. Helmut Gernsheim rediscovered the photo in 1952 and sold his entire collection of early photography to the University of Texas in 1963.

The exhibition — on view from September 9 through January 6 — features images well into the middle of the 20 century. They capture moments of war, feats of architecture and technology, and city- and landscapes alike. Daguerre’s early picture, “Notre Dame and the Ile de la Cité” (1838), produced based on technology developed with Niépce, will also be on view.

This article also appears on Berlin Art Brief.


By Jim McKinniss

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