22 Aug Roger Cicala: Imaging Before Photography, Part III — The Showman and the Sheriff

Source: DP Review

Enter the Showman

In my last article, we discussed the first image makers, up until the late 1820s when Niepce had actually been able to make images using a camera obscura and silver plates coated with Bitumen of Judea. On his way to England, Niepce had been introduced to a most interesting man, Louis Daguerre, by Charles Chevalier, the lensmaker they both used.

Daugerre was in almost every way the opposite of Niepce. Unlike the landed Niepce, Daguerre was the son of a clerk. Because of Louis’ artistic talent his father had apprenticed him to an architect hoping that he would make something of himself. Louis had other ideas and ended up working as an assistant Stage Designer for the Paris Opera. In those days, working in the theatre had all the social standing of waiting tables at a biker bar: Louis’ parents were not pleased, especially when rumors of his wild partying with the theater crowd reached them.

Portrait of Louis Daguerre, 1844. Jean-Baptiste Sabatier-Blot. Image is in the public domain.

Despite his partying (or perhaps because of it — he ended up invited to a lot of society parties because he was known as a superb dancer) Daguerre became fairly successful. He eventually become a stage designer himself and was quite well reviewed.

He and his friend, painter C. M. Bouton, began painting large Panoramas together. Often Daguerre would sketch the scene in a camera obscura, then he and Bouton

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