Image from the Wikimedia Commons
Though photography and the idea of the obscura had been around for many years, Nicéphore Niépce (born Joseph Niépce) is considered to be one of the inventors of photography. The form of photography that
Niépce invented is heliography.
The process uses the asphalt Bitumen of Judea mixed with water as a coating on glass or metal–similar to how tintypes and wet plate photography work. The asphalt hardens in proportion to its exposure to light. When the plate is washed with oil of lavender and white petroleum, only the hardened areas remain. Niépce apparently exposed his image for eight hours.
Heliography could arguably be considered the world’s first effective form of photography. Niépce was so thrilled with his findings that he wanted to present them to the Royal Society board of England–but because the Society was in turmoil, he didn’t get to share his findings.
Further research into Niépce’s images found that his process actually varied quite a bit and he experimented to get different results. For example, it was actually discovered that he began the process with a coating of lavender oil and then later put the asphalt on.
His picture View from the Window at Le Gras (reproduced above) is considered to be one of the earliest photographs of mankind.
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