“Le Point de View de la Fenêtre du Gras” (The View from the Window at Le Gras)
Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, French, 1765 – 1833
The World’s First Photograph – 5 Key Facts
- The World’s first photograph was produced by the French inventor, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in c.1826
- The photographs’ image was View from the Window at Le Gras
- The photograph was produced using a bitumen coated pewter plate and a wash of oil of lavender and white petroleum, which dissolved away the parts of the bitumen that had not been hardened by light
- It took a massive 8 hours of exposure time!
- The treasure slipped into obscurity after its last public exhibition in 1898 and didn’t reemerge until 54 years later in 1952
And here’s a brief story…it wasn’t until c.1826 that the world’s first photograph came about – a permanently fixed photographic image to be exact. Created by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce It was a result of him experimenting with improvements to the new printmaking technique of lithography (which was terribly fashionable in France at the time). Niépce used a camera obscura and lens, a bitumen coated pewter plate and an exposure time of eight hours (yes eight hours!), together with a wash of oil of lavender and white petroleum. The resultant Niépce creation was his View from the Window at Le Gras, France. He called his process heliography (sun writing).
According to Barbara Brown in her article in the Abbey Newsletter Volume 26 Number 3 Nov 2002, the treasure had slipped into obscurity after its last public exhibition in 1898. It didn’t reemerge until 54 years later when in 1952, Helmut Gernsheim, himself a photographer and a photo historian, traced the work’s background and last recorded owner. Apparently, the owner had forgotten it was stored away!
In 1963, Harry Ransom purchased the Gernsheim Collection for The University of Texas at Austin and Niépce’s heliograph was subsequently donated to the institution. Quoting Barbara Brown, “The Niépce heliograph – the world’s earliest extant permanent photograph from nature – forms the cornerstone not only to UT’s Photography Collection but also to the process of photography which has revolutionized our world throughout the last one and one-half centuries. Because of its uniqueness and its significance to the arts and humanities, it is among the world’s and the University’s rarest treasures”.
Further research/recommended educational videos