Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre’s photographic process was publicly announced in August 1839, which is commonly considered the birth of photography. However, it should be noted that Nicéphore Niépce, a fellow Frenchman, had already succeeded in capturing images using a camera obscura a decade earlier.
Nicéphore Niépce was a French inventor and pioneer in photography. He is credited with creating the world’s first photograph in 1827, using a process he called “heliography”. The heliography process involves creating a direct positive image on a polished metal plate (usually copper or tin) coated with a photosensitive substance called bitumen of Judea. When bitumen is exposed to light, it eventually bleaches out and hardens; on the other hand, when it is kept in the shade, it remains soluble and can be rinsed away. Once processed, this process leaves a white residue on the metal plate where the metal plate was exposed to light.
After this discovery, Niépce created a new ‘professional’ camera in February 1827 that had double convex lenses using bitumen-coated tin plates. Using this camera, he took the first ever recorded photograph known as “View from the Window at Le Gras” (or “Point de vue du Gras” in the original French). This photograph was taken from a window in his estate and required an estimated exposure time of eight hours to several days.
If you would like to learn more about the history of photography, check out how Niépce improved his process and brought the exposure time down.