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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Joseph Nicéphore Niépce

Dates:  1765, 7 March - 1833, 5 July
Born:  France, Chalon-sur-Saône
Active:  France
French inventor and photographer. Niépce experimented with fixing an image from 1813-1822, when he successfully produced an image on tin. Inventor of the heliographic process (1824) which was not a commercial success. He took the first known photograph from nature in 1827. By 1826/7 he was using a pewter base, etched with bitumen of Judaea and lavender oil but lack of interest in his invention caused him to leave his three heliographs in Kew when he visited London in 1827, and from there, these exceedingly rare items made their way to the RPS Collection. His contribution to photography, has, until recently, been overwhelmed, by his partnership with Daguerre, who, after Niépce‘s death in 1833, took and improved his research and, in 1839, launched the Daguerreotype, effectively claiming that the invention was his own.
[With contributions by Pam Roberts]

Preparing biographies

Further research

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C. Laguiche
Joseph Nicéphore Niépce 
1795 (ca)
Family history 
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch.

Visual indexes

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Internet biographies

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Wikipedia has a biography of this photographer. Go to website
Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
Grove Art Online ( has a biography of this artist. 
[NOTE: This is a subscription service and you will need to pay an annual fee to access the content.]
 Go to website
The International Photographers Hall of Fame has provided a biography. Go to website

Internet resources

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Nicéphore Niépce ... 

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.361-362 
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Joseph Nicéphore Niépce.] 
• Witkin, Lee D. and Barbara London 1979 The Photograph Collector’s Guide (London: Secker and Warburg) p.202-203 [Long out of print but an essential reference work - the good news is that a new edition is in preparation.] 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

• Koetzle, Hans-Michael 2002 Photo Icons: The Story Behind the Pictures - Volume 1 (Koln: Taschen) [This book discusses one photograph "View from the Study Window (1827)" by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in considerable detail. An excellent source for a detailed analysis.] 
• Newhall, Beaumont 1982 The History of Photography - Fifth Edition (London: Secker & Warburg) [One or more photographs by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce are included in this classic history.] 
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