The Gift of the Daguerreotype
In 1829, a French artist and designer named Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre struck a partnership with fellow inventor Joseph-Nicephore Niépce to develop a method to permanently capture the fleeting images visible in a camera obscura. Niépce passed away suddenly in 1833, but Daguerre kept experimenting, finally achieving success around 1834. The daguerreotype process used a polished sheet of silver-plated copper, treated with iodine to make it light-sensitive, which was exposed (for several minutes or more) under a lens, then “fixed” using mercury vapor. The existence of the process was first announced to the public in January of 1839—followed by an extraordinary move by the French government that would fuel the rapid growth of photography worldwide.