How a Philadelphia Chemist Became the Father of Candid Photography

Illustration for article titled How a Philadelphia Chemist Became the Father of Candid Photography

The Daily today tells the story of Robert Cornelius, an American chemist, metallurgist and photography pioneer who was successful in not only creating the first candid photographic self-portrait but also one of the first portraits of a human ever taken.


Cornelius' shot was a giant step forward from the daguerreotype, the wildly popular photographic method invented by Joseph Nicephore Niépce and Louis Daguerre. While the daguerreotype was considered "one of the most beautiful discoveries of the age," the method's long exposure time made it impossible to photograph anything other than architecture and landscapes. So mechanic Joseph Saxton and physician/chemist Paul Beck Goddard approached Cornelius in Philly, having heard of his skills with silver plating and metal-polishing. Combined with the use of bromine as an accelerant, the three set out to make history.

This shot was taken in 1839, after Cornelius rushed to his chair to wait to be shot. It's being off-center indicates there was no time to frame it and adjust, making it completely candid. In that time, he had just made history. [The Daily]

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Neville Longbottom - time traveller