View from the Window at Le Gras is the oldest surviving camera photograph. It was created by French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 or 1827 at Saint-Loup-de-Varennes, France, and shows parts of the buildings and surrounding countryside of his estate, Le Gras.

“The window” just to the left of the central tower and under the roof line / Image: Raphael Gaillarde/Gamma

The buildings and objects showing in the photo have long since disappeared. That’s to be expected after 187 years and multiple homeowners. And the window itself, as it turns out, had been moved 70 centimeters to the left to make way for a fireplace and chimney.

“Point de vue du Gras”, first photograph by Niépce (View from the Window at Le Gras) 1826–1827/ Image: Wikipedia
Close up of the original plate.

Niépce captured the scene with a camera obscura focused onto a 16.2 cm × 20.2 cm pewter plate thinly coated with Bitumen of Judea, a naturally occurring asphalt.

The bitumen hardened in the brightly lit areas, but in the dimly lit areas it remained soluble and could be washed away with a mixture of oil of lavender and white petroleum.

A very long exposure in the camera was required. Sunlight strikes the buildings on opposite sides, suggesting an exposure that lasted about eight hours, which has become the traditional estimate.

Maison-Nicephore-Niepce-vue-dur-le-domaine
Niépce took the famous “Point de vue du Gras” photo from roughly this position / Image: esquissewei.com

Website: museeniepce.com

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