Louis Daguerre (b. 1789 in Cormeilles, d. 1851 in Paris), French painter and physicist, who started out as a tax collector who did paintings for opera backdrops on the side. In 1822 he opened what he called the Diorama in Paris, an exhibition of wrap-around landscape scenes which altered depending on the light thrown on them. He soon after opened a second installation in London, and this brought him fame and funding to discover the chemical process of photographic development.

Here are excerpts from a mid-18th c. magazine article reacting to the invention and use of the camera, of whom who was a pioneer, which was apparently going to put artists, engravers, sketchers and painters utterly out of business forever…

THE PENCIL OF NATURE, A NEW DISCOVERY.

From The Corsair. A Gazette of Literature, Art, Dramatic Criticism, fashion and Novelty (New-York) Vol. 1, No. 5 (Saturday, 13 April 1839) pp. 70-72.

Engraving, set upon a firm basis, one would have thought might have been supreme. No such a thing-her illegitimate sister, Lithography, sets up her claim, and by means of cheap publications, calls in the masses, who naturally prefer the inferior article; and here commences the democracy of art. Print shops have increased out of number-print auctions are every where; so that, if all the world do not become judges of art, it cannot be for lack of means to make them acquainted with it.

There is no breathing space-all is one great movement. Where are we going? Who can tell? The phantasmagoria of inventions passes rapidly before us-are we to see them no more?-are they to be obliterated? Is the hand of man to be altogether stayed in his work?-the wit active-the fingers idle?

Wonderful wonder of wonder!! Vanish aqua-tints and mezzotints-as chimneys that consume their own smoke, devour your-selves. Steel engravers, copper engravers, and etchers, drink up your aquafortis, and die! There is an end of your black art-"Othello's occupation's gone." The real black art of true magic arises and cries avaunt. All nature shall paint herself-fields, rivers, trees, houses, plains, mountains, cities, shall all paint themselves at a bidding, and at a few moment's notice. Towns will no longer have any representatives but selves. Invention says it. It has found out the one thing new under the sun; that, by virtue of the sun's patent, all nature, animate and inanimate, shall be henceforth its own painter, engraver, printer, and publisher.. Here is a revolution in art; and, that we may not be behindhand in revolutions, for which we have so imitative a taste, no sooner does one start up in Paris, but we must have one in London too.

The Dagueroscope and the Photogenic revolutions are to keep you all down, ye painters, engravers, and, alas! the harmless race, the sketchers. All ye, before whose unsteady hands towers have toppled down upon the paper, and the pagodas of the East have bowed, hide your heads…Your mistress now, with a vengeance, she will show you what she really is, and that the cloud is not "very like a whale." …Bridges are far too arch now to put up with your false perspective. They will no longer be abridged of their true proportions by you; they will measure themselves and take their own toll…Talk no more of "holding the mirror up to nature"-she will hold it up to herself, and present you with a copy of her countenance for a penny.

Mr. Babbage in his (miscalled Ninth Bridgewater Treatise) announces the astounding fact, as a very sublime truth, that every word uttered from the creation of the world has registered itself, and is still speaking, and will speak forever in vibration. In fact, there is a great album of Babel. But what too, if the great business of the sun be to act register likewise, and to give out impressions of our looks, and pictures of our actions… the whole universal nature being nothing more than phonetic and photogenic structures.

It remains to be considered,-will taste be enlarged by this invention?

Do we not despise what is too easily attained?

Is not the admiration of the world at once the incitement and the reward? Has it not greatly, mainly, a reference to ourselves?

It is what man can do by his extraordinary manual dexterity that we are so prone to admire. People prefer a poor representation of an object made by a human hand to the beauty of the thing itself.

They will throw away a leaf,
a flower,
of exquisite beauty,
and treasure up the veriest daub,
that shall have the slightest resemblance to it.


For futher examples of early Photographic Arts, see The Daguerreian Society : http://www.daguerre.org/home.html

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