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In early 1842, artist, architectural historian, archaeologist, and pioneer photographer Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey (1804–1892) embarked on a three-year photographic excursion around the eastern Mediterranean and returned to France with more than one thousand daguerreotypes—an unparalleled feat in the history of photography. Among the images he created are the earliest surviving photographs of Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, and Jerusalem and among the first daguerreotypes depicting Italy.
A trailblazer of the daguerreotype process, Girault de Prangey used oversize plates and innovative formats to produce the world's first photographic archive—all in the service of a brand-new type of archaeological fieldwork. This exhibition, the first retrospective to focus on his Mediterranean journey, will feature approximately 125 of his daguerreotypes, supplemented by examples of his graphic work—watercolors, paintings, and his lithographically illustrated publications.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website
Whether or not you go, the exhibition catalog, Monumental Journey: The Daguerreotypes of Girault de Prangey, is the first to fully consider the hundreds of daguerreotypes that resulted from his three-year journey. Many were made using innovative techniques that fascinate photographers to this day, and include the first-known photographic documentation of significant locations, offer tangible evidence of subsequently-destroyed historic sites in places such as Greece, Italy, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, and Jerusalem. Copiously illustrated and featuring a geographic glossary of the sites and images, the book sheds new light on the arc of Girault’s career, the vibrant orientalist milieu of 19th-century France that shaped his work, and his inventive contributions to the nascent field of photography.This brilliant yet enigmatic talent, and the stunning images, make a major contribution to the histories of both photography and eastern Mediterranean.
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