Joseph Nicephore Niepce
was a French chemist who originated a photographic process and is credited with taking the first photograph
- in June or July of 1827
Niepce came from a wealthy family in Chalon, France. He was educated for the Catholic priesthood and for a period of time was an instructor at the seminary. He joined the military - serving from 1791 - 1794 - but contracted typhoid fever and retired to Nice.
In 1807, Joseph and his older brother, Claude, obtained a patent from the French government for a motor for large boats. But Joseph's first love was lithography. He handled the chemical process, while his son did the drawings. In 1814 Joseph began to experiment with photography, mainly as a way to create images for his lithographs; since he couldn't draw and his son had been drafted into Napoleon's army. He constructed his first camera in 1816 and was able to create images on white paper, but could not fix them.
The Niepce family cites 1822 as the birth of photography and a plaque in his home bears this date, but the earliest physical evidence dates to 1827, when Niepce produced the first lasting record of his work. This, the earliest photograph in existence, is an eight-hour exposure from his bedroom window. Niepce named the resulting image a heliograph. It is now a part of the Gersheim collection at the University of Texas.
It was around this same period (1827) that Niepce was introduced to Louis Daguerre. Niepce and Daguerre became partners, though Niece would pass away just four years after they signed a contract to work together. Daguerre went on to greatly improve the photographic process developed (sic) by Niepce.
There is a statue and a museum dedicated to Joseph Nicephore Niepce in Chalon, France. Niepce was one of the first photographers inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame at its inception in 1966.