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Oldest photo lab of the world

Posted by admin on Jun 14, 2007

Recent discovery of the abandoned darkroom used by amateur French photographer Fortuné Joseph Petiot-Groffier whose preservation will be handled by The Niépce House.

This lab is the oldest existing we know of at present (thanks to the receipts, the chemicals can be dated back as far as 1840-41).

From photography pioneers such as Niépce, Daguerre, Talbot or Bayard, no entire lab has been preserved, but individual ancient large format cameras and sometimes wooden shooting accessories (whole or in parts). These served as a means for the photographic production (the shooting proper) and cannot be seen as pertaining to the lab-work in the darkroom.

In Petiot-Groffier’s lab, we are able to rediscover all the chemical products and utensils used in the darkroom to prepare the photographic plates and to develop the images taken: 450 flasks, 500 books, ancient large format cameras, accessories (to take, prepare and develop the images), empty plates, as well as negatifs and prints by Petiot-Groffier himself. An exceptional ensemble which allows us for the first time ever to enter a darkroom of one of history’s first photographers.

This lab might not be the only one to have resisted time, and several other photographic treasuries might as well be hidden away somewhere. So as to make them visible and accessible as well, the Niépce House would like to appeal to those who know of similar cases: please do not wait any longer before sharing your knowledge.

The Niépce House is proud to once again contribute to our knowledge of the history of photography – a history that the visitors of our museum will be able to review themselves from summer 2007 onwards.

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