History of Photography

History of Photography

A World History of Photography

The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991

Photographers' Dictionary






1   Nicephore Niepce. View from the Study Window, 1827

2   Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre. Boulevard du Temple, 1838

3   Eugene Durieu/Eugene Delacroix. Nude from Behind, ca. 1853

4   Duchenne de Boulogne. Contractions musculaires, 1856

5   Auguste Rosalie Bisson. The Ascent of Mont Blanc, 1862

6   Nadar. Sarah Bernhardt, ca. 1864

7   Francois Aubert. Emperor Maximilian's Shirt, 1867

8   Andre Adolphe Eugene Disderi. Dead Communards, 1871

9   Maurice Guibert. Toulouse-Lautrec in His Studio, ca. 1894

10 Max Priester/Willy Wilcke. Bismarck on his Deathbed, 1898

11 Heinrich Zille. The Wood Gatherers, 1898

12 Alfred Stieglitz. The Steerage, 1907

13 Lewis Hine. Girl Worker in a Carolina Cotton Mill, 1908

14 August Sander. Young Farmers, 1914

15 Paul Strand. Blind Woman, 1916

16 Man Ray. Noire et blanche, 1926

17 Andre Kertesz. Meudon, 1928

18 Robert Capa. Spanish Loyalist, 1936

19 Dorothea Lange. Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936

20 Horst P. Horst. Mainbocher Corset, 1939

21 Henri Cartier-Bresson. Germany, 1945

22 Richard Petersen. View from the Dresden City Hall Tower, 1945

23 Robert Doisneau. The Kiss in Front of City Hall, 1950

24 Dennis Stock. James Dean on Times Square, 1955

25 Bert Stern. Marilyn's Last Sitting, 1962

26 Gerard Malanga. Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground, 1966

27 Helmut Newton. They're Coming!, 1981

28 Sandy Skoglund. Revenge of the Goldfish, 1981

29 Robert Mapplethorpe. Lisa Lyon, 1982

30 Joel-Peter Witkin. Un Santo Oscuro, 1987

31 Sebastiao Salgado. Kuwait, 1991


see also:


Chapter 6






Sarah Bernhardt

Lady at Ease

She was a true child of the age of photography. Fascin-ated with the new pictorial medium that photography represented, Sarah Bernhardt understood how to wield photography to foster her growing fame.


At some point in the course of 1864, the young Sarah Bernhardt had her portrait taken in the studio of the Paris photographer Felix Tournachon, known as Nadar. The precise day and month have not been recorded but researchers nevertheless have agreed. At the time, Henriette Rosine Bernhardt, the daughter of a Hungarian Jewish mother, was twenty years old, and it would be an exaggeration to term her a famous actress. At this point even the word 'promising' might be too much - although she had been a conscientious student at the Paris Conservatory, and had passed the final exams as the second in her class. But even so, coming directly from school, she would never have been engaged by the Comedie Francaise - at that time still the leading theater in France - without the support of her mother's influential friends. One cannot speak, however, of the beginning of a brilliant career; in fact, rather the opposite. "Her debut," writes Cornelia Otis Skinner, one of Bernhardt's biographers, "was not at all sensational; it wasn't even good." In particular, the stage fright from which she was to suffer throughout her life weakened her self-confidence during her performances. Accordingly, the critics responded with restraint. Francisque Sarcey, for example, initially commented positively on the way the young actress carried herself and spoke in her first ap-pearance in Racine's Iphegenie - but shortly afterward rescinded his faint praise. Similarly, the influential critic of Le Temps found her performance unsatisfactory. If she seem to have made an impression at all, then it was thanks to her appearance: "Mademoiselle Bernhardt... is a tall and pretty young person of slender build and very pleasant facial expression. The top half of her face is remarkably beautiful; her posture is good and her pronunciation completely clear. More," according to Sarcey, "cannot be said at this point."

By 1864, Sarah Bernhardt had two years of stage experience behind her. She had appeared in pieces by Moliere and Racine, and had also held her own in now-forgotten plays by writers such as Barriere, Bayard, Laya, and Delacourt. But until the time of the photograph, she had garnered more attention from a certain extravagance of clothing and appearance, as well as a series of moderate-sized scandals, which initially were anything but helpful to the progress of her career. A slap she delivered on the public stage in early 1863 gained her not only dismissal from the Comedie Franchise but the reputation of being difficult, stubborn, and arrogant. She was, and remained, without permanent engagement. On top of all this, she was now pregnant. The child - a son named Maurice - was born in December 1864 on the wrong side of the blanket. All in all, the young actress was not in an enviable position. "This young person," her teacher at the Conservatory is said to have prophesied, "will either be a genius or a disaster." In 1864, the latter seemed the more likely prognosis.
In precisely this unpromising year, the young actress determined to visit Nadar's atelier. The studio was not just any of the by-then numerous photography establishments in Paris: it was the largest and probably the best known. Opened in 7860 at 35 Boulevard des Capucines, the studio tended to draw customers of name and rank, if not precisely the power elite of the Second Empire, from whom the republican sympathizer Nadar kept a critical distance. Instead, his clientele included the members of the bohemian circles from which Felix Tournachon himself had arisen, even if his meanwhile well-developed sense for business distinguished him from the "water-drinkers," as he called them.

Sarah Bernhardt


Pantheon of prominent personalities


Gaspard-Felix Tournachon, who began to style himself'Nadar' in 1838, had started his career as a theater critic, writer, publisher of literary magazines, draftsman, and caricaturist. His project of creating a lithographic Pantheon of Famous Contemporaries, begun in 1851, won him attention, even though financial problems prevented him from producing more than a first issue. In the same year, Nadar also turned to the still-young field of photography, a decision that at first glance seems logical for technical reasons: photography was faster and cheaper than lithography, thus making it easier to construct his 'pantheon' of prominent personalities, for example. Furthermore, a new process had just become available that, although rather complicated, was many times more sensitive to light: the wet collodion process, which Felix Tournachon set to immediate use in his very first photographs. Nadar began making portraits of family mem-bers; soon, however, his artist friends were also stepping in front of his camera: Baudelaire, Champfleuri, Dore, Delacroix, Rossini, and Berlioz - a collection of simple, concentrated studies that "even today still retain their directness" (Franchise Heilbrun). Within a very short time, Nadar refined his portraiture to a remarkable level, a feat for which no doubt his familiarity with his subjects, his years of work as a caricaturist, as well as his "general curiosity about human beings" (Heilbrun) proved of great value. Nadar himself was thoroughly conscious of his abilities - of his own 'genius' - as demonstrated in a sensational civil suit against his own brother Adrien, who was in competition with him. During the trial, the self-assured Nadar declared that in photography, one could learn much for oneself, but not everything; excellent portraits, in particular, depended chiefly on the talent of the artist behind the camera. This evaluation was picked up by Philippe Burty in his criticism of the photographic Salon in 1859: "Mr Nadar," as he wrote in the Gazette des beaux-arts, "has made his portrait photographs into unquestionable works of art in the truest sense of the word specifically through the manner in which he illuminates his models, the freedom with which they move and assume their postures, and in particular by his discovery of the typical facial expression of each. Every member of the literary, artistic, dramatic, and political classes - in short, the intellectual elite - of our age has found its way to his studio. The sun takes care of the practical side of the affair, and M. Nadar is the artist who supplies the design."

For almost a decade, portraiture seems to have engrossed Nadar's artistic energies. Afterwards, so the story goes, he became bored by photo-graphy, although not to such an extent that he gave it up entirely. In 1861 he took impressive photographs of the catacombs of Paris using artificial light, and later he also photographed from balloons. Furthermore, he remained involved in portraiture, although his large new studio which opened in 1861 was primarily devoted to the quasi-'mechanical' production of photographs that had become almost universally popular. The process introduced by Disderi allowed the production of up to twelve saucersize portraits quickly and cheaply. Nadar's answer to the commercial challenge was his new studio in the Boulevard des Capucines that is supposed to have cost an unimaginable sum of two hundred thirty thousand francs - of borrowed money. Rumor has it further that he employed fifty workers, who could finish up to ten portraits a day; until that time, the upper limit had been three. It is not difficult to imagine why this 'mass production' was unable to achieve the desired 'character balance' sought-after in more 'intimate portraits'. If Nadar's studio was still important in the 1860s, it was chiefly because of its size and his advertising methods, which were unusual for the age. Attached to the facade of the building facing the boulevard was the owner's name in red script, which was furthermore illuminated at night. Nadar and his young client Sarah Bernhardt at least shared the feel for the grand entrance.

"Sorah Bernhardt after leaving the Conservatory".
Article in the French glossy VU, August 12, 1931Tfre dale of Nodar's photograph is given here as 1861.


New food for his lens


Sarah Bernhardt had visited Nadar's studio for the first time in 1862. The proof is a visiting card in the Bibliotheque nationale that already evinces all the signs of the standardized portrait. Whereas Nadar had rejected the use of props in his early portraits, such accessories, considered indispensable accouterments in the photography studios of this age of rapid commercial expansion, now began making their way into Nadar's studio, too. The typical example of these studio props was the supposedly antique-looking stump of an ancient column, made if necessary of papier mache and left unlacquered to avoid reflections. Such a column is clearly evident in the well-known Bernhardt portrait of 1864, and was present in the photograph of 1862 as well. In the older photograph the pose is conventional, the lighting unconvincing. The picture is, in short, flat, like the scene itself. The light-colored drape across the actress's shoulders emphasizes the thinness of her arms, a 'fault' which had often been ridiculed in her stage appearance, just she had often been teased as a child for her thick, curly hair. For the portrait, the 'blond Negress', as she was sometimes called, had combed her dark hair back into a braid and bound it. If there is anything that this insignificant photograph of Sarah Bernhardt does not exude It is precisely the quality that later characterized her whole being, namely, self-confidence and pride to the point of defiance. It is no accident that her chosen life-motto was Quand meme - "Despite everything."

It is highly unlikely that Nadar personally took this first photograph; on the other hand, we may well assume that it was precisely he who undertook two years later to portray Sarah Bernhardt's often-praised beauty so convincingly in a single sitting. Art critics reckon the photograph of the young, still unknown actress to be among Nadar's "most inspired" works (Silvie Aubenas), and one of his best after i860. The background of the portrait is neutral; the stump of a column hidden behind a pose that seems purely natural. The transfigured gaze is directed into the distance; there is no jewelry to compliment her beauty - the small cameo on her left ear in the photograph is hardly noticeable. She is wearing her hair loose; the burnoose that she has thrown off emphasizes the pyramidal composition of the entire photograph. This time, the actress's slim upper torso is skillfully presented, with only the tip of the left shoulder showing, to give the picture a suggestive note. There is here both a clearer contrast between dark and light elements and a selectively sharper focus that together increase the sculptural effect of the picture. Only on a few, rare occasions, according to Francoise Heilbrun, one of the leading experts on Nadar's work, did Nadar again achieve a portrait of this quality: in his later years, only when he was fascinated by the subjector, more precisely, the person.

Three versions of the Bernhardt portrait have survived, and each may well be accounted successful in terms of offering a convincing image o fthe actress's personality. In all three, the actress is presented in a half-length portrait, leaning against the remains of a column. Her hair is loose, the burnoose is on one occasion replaced by a black velvet drape. In any case, Nadar succeeded in eliciting the touching beauty of the young actress, whether en face or in three-quarters profile, for viewers even a hundred and thirty years later. That no contemporary print (vintage print) of the photographs exists is explained by the fact that the twenty-year-old was still unknown. On the other hand, this public insignificance seems to be precisely what provided a particular challenge to the photographer. "Our photographic hero finds the greatest joy and an unimaginable enthusiasm there where his lens makes out an unknown food," wrote one of Nadar's contemporaries. Shortly thereafter, once the 'divine' Sarah Bernhardt had become a legend, she was no longer of interest to the photographer.


Sarah Bernhardt

Sarah Bernhardt

Sarah Bernhardt as Theodora by Nadar

Sarah Bernhardt as Theodora by Nadar



Sarah Bernhardt

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born Oct. 22/23, 1844, Paris, France
died March 26, 1923, Paris

Original name Henriette-Rosine Bernard, byname The Divine Sarah, French La Divine Sarah the greatest French actress of the 19th century, and one of the best-known figures in the history of the stage.

Early life and training
Bernhardt was the illegitimate daughter of Julie Bernard, a Dutch courtesan who had established herself in Paris (the identity of the father is uncertain). As the presence of a babyinterfered with her mother's life, Sarah was brought up at first in a pension and, later, in a convent. A difficult, willful child of delicate health, she wanted to become a nun, but oneof her mother's lovers, the Duke de Morny, Napoleon III's halfbrother, decided that she should be an actress and, when shewas 16, arranged for her to enter the Paris Conservatoire, thegovernment-sponsored school of acting. She was not considered a particularly promising student, and, although she revered some of her teachers, she regarded the Conservatoire's methods as antiquated.

Sarah Bernhardt left the Conservatoire in 1862 and, thanks to the Duke de Morny's influence, was accepted by the national theatre company, the Comédie-Française, as a beginner on probation. During the obligatory three debuts required of probationers, she was scarcely noticed by the critics. Her contract with the Comédie-Française was canceled in 1863 after she slapped the face of a senior actress who had been rude to her younger sister. For a time she found employment at the Théâtre du Gymnase-Dramatique. After playing the role of a foolish Russian princess, she entered a period of soul-searching, questioning her talent for acting. During these critical months she became the mistress of Henri, Prince de Ligne, and gave birth to her only child, Maurice. (Later, Bernhardt was married to a Greek military officer turned actor, Jacques Damala, but the marriage was short-lived, he dying of drug abuse. Throughout her life she had a series of affairs or liaisons with famous men, allegedly including the writer Victor Hugo, the actor Lou Tellegen, and the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII.)

In 1866 Bernhardt signed a contract with the Odéon theatreand, during six years of intensive work with a congenial company there, gradually established her reputation. Her first resounding success was as Anna Damby in the 1868 revival of Kean, by the novelist and playwright Alexandre Dumas pére. The same year, she played the role of Cordelia in Le Roi Lear there. Bernhardt's greatest triumph at the Odéon, however, came in 1869, when she played the minstrelZanetto in the young dramatist François Coppée's one-act verse play Le Passant (“The Passerby”)—a part that she played again in a command performance before Napoleon III.

During the Franco-German War in 1870, she organized a military hospital in the Odéon theatre. After the war, the reopened Odéon paid tribute to France's great writer Victor Hugo with a production of his verse-play Ruy Blas. As Queen Maria, Bernhardt charmed her audiences with the lyrical quality of her distinctive voice, which was memorably described as a “golden bell,” though her critics usually called it “silvery,” as resembling the tones of a flute.

In 1872 Bernhardt left the Odéon and returned to the Comédie-Française, where at first she received only minor parts. But she had a remarkable success there in the title roleof Voltaire's Zaïre (1874), and she was soon given the chance to play the title role in Jean Racine's Phèdre, a part for which the critics supposed she lacked the resources needed to portray violent passion. Her performance, however, made them revise their estimate and write enthusiastic reviews. Another of her finest roles, her portrayal of Doña Sol in Victor Hugo's play Hernani was said to have brought tears to the author's eyes.

She played Desdemona in Shakespeare's Othello in 1878, and when the Comédie-Française appeared in London in 1879, Bernhardt played in the second act of Phèdre and achieved another triumph. She had now reached the head of her profession, and an international career lay before her. Bernhardt had become an expressive actress with a wide emotional range who was capable of great subtlety in her interpretations. Her grace, beauty, and charisma gave her a commanding stage presence, and the impact of her unique voice was reinforced by the purity of her diction. Her career was also helped by her relentless self-promotion and her unconventional behaviour both on and off the stage.

International success
In 1880 Bernhardt formed her own traveling company and soon became an international idol. She spent her time actingwith her own company, managing the theatres it used, and going on long international tours. She appeared fairly regularly in England and extended her itinerary to the European continent, the United States, and Canada. New YorkCity saw her for the first time on Nov. 8, 1880, and eight visits to the United States followed. She made notable appearances as Hamlet in Paris and London in 1899, and in 1891–93 she undertook a world tour that included Australia and South America. Aside from her appearances as Phèdre, there were two parts that audiences all over the world clamoured to see her act: Marguérite Gautier, the redeemed courtesan in La Dame aux Camélias (“The Lady of the Camellias”) of Alexandre Dumas fils, and the title role of the popular playwright Eugène Scribe's Adrienne Lecouvreur. She had first played these two roles in 1880.

In the 1880s a new element had entered her artistic life with the emergence of Victorien Sardou as chief playwright for melodrama. With Bernhardt in mind, Sardou wrote Fédora (1882), Thédora (1884), La Tosca (1887), and Cléopâtre (1890). Sardou, directing his own plays in which she starred, taught her a broad, flamboyant style of acting, relying for effect on lavish decors, exotic costumes, and pantomimic action. Bernhardt even played male roles in the course of her career. In one of her more famous parts, that of Napoleon's only son in Edmond Rostand's play L'Aiglon (1900), Bernhardt, then aged 55, played a youth who died at age 21. She was also one of the first women known to haveperformed the title role in Hamlet.

In 1893 Bernhardt became the manager of the Théâtre de la Renaissance, and in 1899 she relocated to the former Théâtre des Nations, which she renamed the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt and managed until her death in 1923. The theatre retained her name until the German occupation of World War II and is now known as the Théâtre de la Ville.

Bernhardt was made a member of the Legion of Honour in 1914. In 1905, during a South American tour, she had injured her right knee when jumping off the parapet in the last sceneof La Tosca. By 1915 gangrene had set in, and her leg had to be amputated. Undaunted, the patriotic Bernhardt insisted on visiting the soldiers at the front during World War I while carried about in a litter chair. In 1916 she began her last tour of the United States, and her indomitable spirit sustained herduring 18 grueling months on the road. In November 1918 she arrived back in France but soon set out on another European tour, playing parts she could act while seated. New roles were provided for her by the playwrights Louis Verneuil, Maurice Rostand, and Sacha Guitry. She collapsed during the dress rehearsal of the Guitry play Un Sujet de roman (“A Subject for a Novel”) but recovered again sufficiently to take an interest in the Hollywood motion picture La Voyante (“The Clairvoyant”), which was being filmed in her own house in Paris at the time of her death.

In 1920 Bernhardt published a novel, Petite idole, that is not without interest since the actress-heroine constitutes an idealization of its author's own career and ambitions. Facts and fiction are difficult to disentangle in her autobiography, Ma Double Vie: Mémoires de Sarah Bernhardt (1907; “My Double Life: Memoirs of Sarah Bernhardt”). Bernhardt's treatise on acting, L'Art du théâtre (1923), is revealing in its sections on voice training: the actress had always considered voice as the key to dramatic character.

Alois M. Nagler

Sarah Bernhardt

Sarah Bernhardt as Queen in Victor Hugo’s Ruy Blas.

Sarah Bernhardt - 1899
As Hamlet

William Downey (1829-18 ), Sarah Benhardt



(b Paris, 8 April 1820; d Paris, 21 March 1910).

 French photographer, printmaker, draughtsman, writer and balloonist. He was born into a family of printers and became familiar with the world of letters very early in life. He abandoned his study of medicine for journalism, working first in Lyon and then in Paris. In the 1840s Nadar moved in socialist, bohemian circles and developed strong republican convictions. Around this time he adopted the pseudonym Nadar (from ‘Tourne а dard’, a nickname he gained because of his talent for caricature). For his friend Charles Baudelaire, Nadar personified ‘the most astonishing expression of vitality’. In 1845 he published his first novel, La Robe de Dejanira, and the following year he embarked on his career as a caricaturist, working for La Silhouette and Le Charivari and subsequently for the Revue comique (1848) and Charles Philipon’s Journal pour rire (1849), which later became the Journal amusant (1856). In London in 1863 Nadar discovered the drawings in Punch and met the illustrators Paul Gavarni and Constantin Guys, who became a friend. Nadar ended his career as a caricaturist in 1865, by which time he had become famous as a photographer.


Pierrot the Photographer



The Catacombs

The Sewers

Young Woman in Profile


Sarah Bernhardt

Georges Sand

The Photographer's Wife


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