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The origins of photography


Perhaps the most extensive exhibition ever devoted to early calotypes, curated by Sylvie Aubenas and Paul Louis Roubert.
An anecdote for experts: Hans Kraus, the world’s most influential trader in XIXth century photographs, and Thomas Walther, the art collector, came for the exhibit’s opening night, one from New York, the other from Berlin.
1843 – 1860 : Photography on paper was born during this short and rich period. Artists, writers, archeologists, and aristocrats went crazy about this new form of expression developed by the world’s first great photographers. Prints made during this period of collective energy are some of the XIXth century’s most beautiful. 180 of them have been selected from the the BnF, the French Photography Society, and other various public and private collections retrace this essential step in photographic history.

The Calotype (from the Greek : pretty picture) refers to the first photographic technique associating negatives on paper and their resulting prints. Developed by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1841, this technique appeared in France around the same time period as the Daguerreotype. The Calotype, or silver gelatin print, opened the door to photography’s future by allowing for multiple prints from one negative. However, the Daguerreotype’s success – printing from direct contact with a silver plate – limited the Calotype’s commercial use and was only used by a limited number of professionals. Nevertheless, its use spread in France during the 1840’s thanks to such photographers as Hippolyte Bayard, Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard or Gustave Legray before peaking around 1850. The Calotype enjoyed widespread enthusiasm, but never actually took off commercially.

Photography primitives

BnF Richelieu
5 rue Vivienne – Paris 2nd
Until January 16
The exhibition catalogue is published by Gallimard.

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