Gustave Le Gray


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(1820–84), major mid-19th-century French photographer. Planning originally to be a painter, he frequented the studio of Paul Delaroche, where he met Henri Le Secq and Charles Nègre. He evidently took up photography in Rome (1844–7). But it was after his return to Paris that he became committed to it, practising the daguerreotype and, above all, from 1848, the calotype, which Blanquart-Évrard was then trying to popularize in France. He worked with Olivier Mestral and Le Secq, and attracted the attention of Léon de Laborde, a curator at the Louvre, who introduced him to official and artistic circles. In 1850–1 Le Gray pioneered two major innovations: waxing photographic paper before sensitization, and—it seems independently of Bingham and Archer—using collodion on glass. These researches, published in four works 1850–4, and Le Gray's mastery of photographic technique, made him a leader of the young generation of French calotypists. In 1849 he opened a studio, where he did his own work, executed commissions, and gave lessons. His pupils included Maxime Du Camp, Léon de Laborde, the Aguado brothers, Adrien Tournachon, and John Beasley Greene. In 1851 he was one of the five photographers chosen for the Mission Héliographique, and on a three-month journey through Touraine and Aquitaine experimented with the waxed-paper technique, making over 600 negatives.


From The Oxford Companion to the Photograph in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Photography and Photographs.

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