The First Photograph

history Jul 27, 2011

Frenchman Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (1765-1833) is credited with what is widely accepted as the first photograph, that is, a permanent photographic image as opposed to one that deteriorated shortly after creation or upon attempts at duplication.

Niépce experimented with lithography, which led him in his attempt to take a photograph using a camera obscura. Niépce also experimented with silver chloride, which darkens when exposed to light, but eventually looked to bitumen, which he used in his first successful attempt at capturing nature photographically. He dissolved bitumen in lavender oil, a solvent often used in varnishes, and coated the sheet of pewter with this light capturing mixture. He placed the sheet inside a camera obscura to capture the picture, and eight hours later removed it and washed it with lavender oil to remove the unexposed bitumen.

Niépce called his process heliography, which literally means “sun writing”.