|Nadar Self-Portrait in Balloon|
A review of When I Was a Photographer, a book published over a century ago and only recently translated into English, had me investigating Félix Nadar, which turned out to be the pseudonym of Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (1820-1910).
The name will be as unfamiliar to many of my readers as it was to me. In his own day, though, Nadar was a celebrity. He knew everybody—and he photographed them—alphabetically from Tsar Alexander III to Emile Zola, as his Wikimedia Commons page demonstrates.
He was far more than a sought-after portrait photographer, though. Nadar became the first photographer to devise a way to use artificial lighting, in order to take pictures of the Paris catacombs. He was also a balloonist who one day discovered, after numerous failed attempts, how to take aerial photographs without ruining the plates (the problem was the balloon’s gas valve). This trial and error accomplishment transformed mapping techniques. It also led to this Daumier caricature
|Nadar élevant la Photographie à la hauteur de l'Art|
Along with his identities as photographer, balloonist, and inventor, Nadar was a caricaturist and writer. He was, in short, a man of many talents, living in an era and a city, Paris, of tremendous creative energy.
Clicking on the image will enlarge it. Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.