Niépce and the first ever photograph

This goal was set by the one whom we now call one of the fathers of WEDDING CINEMATOGRAPHY NYC – Nicéphore Niépce. He was a real son of his century: just as today they dream of organizing a startup and earning millions on it, so in the 19th century, many aspired to become inventors and get rich on deductions from patents. Niepce saw for himself just such a fate. And although he was not a scientist in the classical sense, he and his brother managed to patent several successful inventions, including the internal combustion engine. They moved by feel, by experimentation, and succeeded in many ways. In the 1820s, Niepce focuses on a new task, intending to mechanically fix the ENGAGAMENT PHOTOGRAPHY NYC obtained with a camera obscura.

It is important to note here how his thought went: at first, Niepce wanted to improve the technique of lithography, that is, to obtain an engraving on a stone without the participation of an artist, that is, in some automatic way, and with the help of such a technique to replicate etchings (engravings on copper).

Lithography at that time was the most advanced and winning technique for creating production images. To create an engraving on a stone, it was necessary to make a drawing on the polished surface of the stone with a special bold lithographic pencil or ink, then this surface was exposed to acid, etched, then those areas that the pencil touched received paint, and those untouched by the pencil repelled it. Thus, a microrelief arose, which was necessary for creating prints. Nicephore Niépce wanted to improve this process, to find a way to transfer images to stone without the participation of an artist. And soon he succeeded.

If you open almost any book on the history of photography at the chapter on Niepce’s work, you will most likely find a passage that the first photograph was taken with asphalt. And this puts the reader in a dead end. How can photography be related to asphalt? The authors do not always indicate that in the special terminology the word “asphalt” means a special resin mined in the Dead Sea, bitumen (bitum of Judea). Niepce knew that it was this resin, mixed with lavender oil, that painters valued for its special property: under the influence of light, the asphalt hardens, forming a protective layer on the surface of the picture.

Niepce compared two key components: light as an image conductor and a substance that reacts to its impact.

Since the first task was to obtain a copy of the etching on a lithographic stone, Niepce covered the stone with a layer of bitumen, placed an oiled and therefore translucent sheet with an engraving on top and brought it to the light. In those areas where sunlight passed through the white paper and hit the resin, it hardened, and where there were strokes, that is, a shadow, the resin remained soft. After that, it was necessary to wash off the layer of uncured resin, expose the stone to acid, and then work with it using lithography technology. Copies of etchings turned out to be flawed, but quite worthy. And Niepce moved on to the next phase of the experiment, setting a new task: to capture the images of nature itself, to fix the image inside the camera obscura. To do this, he placed in the chamber no longer a lithographic stone, but a tin plate covered with asphalt. It was this experience that gave us the first photograph, more precisely, heliography, as Niepce called it, “light painting.”

It was, as we would now say, a “grainy”, undetailed image, devoid of compositional finesse and laborious to manufacture (after all, the asphalt had to be exposed to light for several hours) – and yet it is a photograph! A direct reflection of nature, obtained with the help of a machine.

The 19th century as a whole was the age of machines, a time when faith in progress and the ability of technology to change the future gained momentum. Nicephore Niépce created one of the most important machines in history, but during his lifetime the discovery went almost unnoticed. According to one version, this happened because Niepce, presenting his discovery to his British colleagues, did not want to reveal all the technical secrets of heliography, and scientists in response denied him a patent. According to another version, the problem was that the pictures themselves, due to their rough texture, did not produce a stunning effect.