To mark the 175th anniversary of the birth of photography, the Museum of Science and Technology of Catalonia (mNACTEC) staged a public event to recreate the first photographic image taken anywhere in Spain on 10 November 1839. The image was taken with the daguerreotype camera preserved at the Museum, the aim being to reproduce an image similar to that dating from 1839, using the same technique and in the same location as the picture taken exactly 175 years ago: the Pla de Palau in Barcelona. The image obtained through the re-creation will be awarded in a prize draw to those in attendance, as was also the case at the public demonstration in 1839.
The procedure was staged by the photographers Hélène Védrenne and Nina Zaragoza, of the Colectivo T_Daguerrotipo society, and the antique photography restorer Angela Gallego, with the support of the mNACTEC Conservation Department.
The daguerreotype was the first photographic procedure, officially released in 1839. The Frenchman Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, better known as Louis Daguerre, teamed up with Joseph Nièpce (1765-1833) to improve and perfect the latter's procedure, the heliograph. As a result of their partnership, in 1839 Daguerre presented to the world a system that fixed the image more swiftly and precisely than Nièpce's method, giving it the name of the daguerreotype.
The daguerreotype technique comprised a plate of silver-coated copper, on which small nodules of silver iodide became attached as the light impacted on each part of the plate. This was initially exposed by using vaporised mercury, fixing the light and shade on the silvered surface of the copper plate, thereby creating a photographic image.
It was not long at all before the invention arrived in Catalonia: in the very year it was invented the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences of Barcelona, courtesy of its members Felip Monlau, Tomàs Mer and Josep Roura, sponsored the acquisition of a camera and the organisation of a public session to take the first photograph, produced by the engraver Ramon Alabern. This photographic session was held on 10 November 1839, the first staged anywhere in Spain, with Ramon Alabern capturing an image from a patio on the Pla de Palau of the Exchange building and the porticos of the Casa Xifré.
175th anniversary of photography at the mNACTEC
The mNACTEC preserves one of the most significant daguerreotype collections in Catalonia, comprising 72 works.
The recreation of the first daguerreotype corresponds to the activities organised by the Museum of Science and Technology of Catalonia to mark the 175th anniversary of the birth of photography, including the following initiatives: