Niépce (pronounced Nee-ps) is universally credited with producing the first
successful photograph in June/July 1827. He was fascinated with lithography,
and worked on this process. Unable to draw, he needed the help of his artist
son to make the images. However, when in 1814 his son was drafted into the
army to fight at Waterloo, he was left having to look for another way of
obtaining images. Eventually he succeeded, calling his product Heliographs
(after the Greek "of the sun"). Lady Elizabeth Eastlake, writing in 1857,
informs us that he was a man of private means, who had began his researches
in 1814. When he eventually succeeded, he came over to England later that
year and sought to promote his invention via the Royal Society (then as
now regarded as the leading learned body concerned with science). However,
the Royal Society had a rule that it would not publicise a discovery that
contained an undivulged secret, so Niépce meet with total failure.
Returning to France, he teamed up with Louis Daguerre in 1829, a partnership
which lasted until his death only four years later, at the age of 69.
He left behind him some examples of his heliographs, which are now in the
Royal Photographic Society's collection.
-One of the first photographs taken by Niepce of a courtyard in France. He used particles of asphalt, hardened by the sun and rinsed in lavender oil, circa 1824.
-Another early photo of a tablesetting in France using the same technique as described for the previous photograph
-A portrait of Cardinal d'Amboise taken in 1826. This is one example of Niepce's use of the heliograph technique on a pewter plate (which here is a reproduction of a print). Now housed at the Musee Niecpe, Chalon-sur-Saone.