From the Industrial Revolution to World War I, C. 1850–1914

Early Photography

Who was Nadar?

“Nadar” was the common nickname of French photographer Gaspard-Félix Tour-nachon (1820–1910) who was interested in photography for both its artistic value and its commercial potential. He was particularly enthused by photography’s potential for Realism, and he wanted to capture accurate details of the city of Paris. He even built a mobile darkroom in the basket of a hot-air balloon, and could be seen soaring overhead, capturing aerial views of the city. The French lithographer, Honoré Daumier published a lithograph, Nadar Elevating Photography to the Height of Art (1862), depicting Nadar working in his balloon, his face pressed up against the lens of a camera while his top hat blows away in the wind. The lithograph emphasizes Nadar’s high hopes for the role of photography in the fine arts. In addition to his photographs of the city, Nadar took many portraits of notable figures in French society, including the poet Charles Baudelaire, the writer Alexandre Dumas, and Sarah Bernhardt, one of the most famous actresses of the day.

Julia Margaret Cameron was an early photographer who was interested in elevating the status of photography as an art form. Her portrait photography was often infused with dreamy light, as in I Wait.


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