Jean Francois Antoine Claudet

Jean Francois Antoine Claudet
b. 12 August 1797; d. 27 December 1867

Claudet was one of the first commercial photographers he was originally a glass merchant living in High Holborn france . He bought a license to operate in England after learned details of the daguerreotype process . Then set up a studio on the roof of the Adelaide Gallery (Today is know as the Nuffield Centre) in 1841. After a short time opened two other sites in London.
A considerable competition was Richard Beard another daguerreotype practitioner.  Beard even took out a court injunction against Claudet in an effort to close his business, but the court found in Claudet’s favor.
A the time exposures were still very long and unpleasent. Clients were often instructed to “sit there, as still as death.” One disgruntled client, Thomas Sutton, left this testimonial of his experience, “I was seated… in the full blazing sunshine and after about an exposure of a minute the plate was developed…  My eyes were made to stare until the tears streamed from them and the portrait was of course a caricature…. I paid a guinea for it. It has since faded…”
By this time Fox Talbot who just invented a new process  persuade Claudet to practice the Calotype (also known as the Talbotype) at his studio, the Adelaide Gallery. Claudet did some work with the Calotype, but as his letter to Talbot indicates, not with total success:
“Until we have a paper with a surface as uniform and perfect as a silver plate I say the Daguerreotype gives images more delicate, finer and of greater perfection than the Talbotype. Until we can operate with the Talbotype in several seconds and as rapidly as with the Daguerreotype so that one can get more pleasing poses, then I say that the advantage is on the side of the Daguerreotype. But I also say that the Talbotype has beauty which the other has not, that the impressions are more portable and circulate more easily, that it is possible so send them through the post, stick them in albums, etc. and finally that one can obtain an unlimited number of copies.”
Independently, Claudet discovered an accelerating process, using chlorine instead of bromine to reduce exposures. He also invented the red (safe) darkroom light, and it was he who suggested the idea of using a series of photographs to create the illusion of movement. The idea of using painted backdrops is also attributed to him.

In 1845 Claudet bought a lens designed by Joseph Petzval. It was sixteen times faster than the ones currently in use and enabled him not only to take pictures with shorter exposures but also increase their size. J. Dudley Johnston, a distinguished member of the Society early this century, writes
“He discovered a method of increasing greatly the rapidity of the Daguerreotype by means of bromide so that he was able to obtain a portrait by the oxyhydrogen light in fifteen seconds and an image of the moon in four seconds.”
In 1851 he moved his business to 107 Regent Street, where he established what he called a “Temple to Photography.”
In the late eighteen fifties Claudet became fascinated by stereoscopic photography. He invented a folding stereoscope and an endless belt stereoscopic viewer which enabled one to view up to a hundred pictures in succession. He wrote:
“The stereoscope is the general panorama of the world. It brings in the cheapest and most portable form, not only the picture but the model, in a tangible shape, of all that exists in the various countries of the globe.”

Claudet received many honors, among which was the appointment, in 1853, as “Photographer-in-ordinary” to Queen Victoria, and the award, ten years later, of an honor from the Emperor of France. Sadly, less than a month after his death, his “temple to photography” was burnt down, and most of his most valuable photographic treasures were lost.

 

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