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  • The Financial Times has a beguiling extract from Eric Hazan's The Invention of Paris: A History in Footsteps which shows it is a must read for anyone who loves France's Capital city:

    The first picture of a human being taken in Paris dates from 1838, the year Honore de Balzac began the novel Scenes from a Courtesan's Life. To capture this image, Louis Daguerre (1787-1851) climbed to the top of his diorama on Boulevard du Temple. The American Samuel Morse, writing in a letter to his brother dated 1839, described the picture: "The boulevard, generally filled with a chaos of walkers and vehicles, was perfectly empty, except for one man having his boots shined. His feet, of course, could not move, one being on the polisher's box and the other on the ground. This is why his boots and legs are so clear, while he lacks a head and body, which moved."

    For the daguerreotypistes, taking a picture from the top of a building was one of the most common practices: portraits and interior views were difficult for reasons of lighting, and the cameras, heavy and fragile, were awkward to take out into the street. Hence the images of streets seen from above, which painting would take up 30 years later (among them Monet's Boulevard des Capucines series, Pissarro's Place du Theatre-Francais, Caillebotte's perspectives towards Boulevard Malesherbes from his apartment on Rue de Miromesnil).

    Then, in the years 1845-1850, the photographic image underwent a complete change of nature, with the negative-positive system. A photograph was now "taken" on a paper negative, followed by "printing", likewise on paper, which delivered the positive image. Parallel with this, the exposure time was shorter and the moving human figure now made an appearance (more...)

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