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The wonder years: photography's beginnings

In today's image-based civilisation, we are familiar with photographs, reproduced over and over again on all possible media, including the virtual medium offered by the computer screen. However, in the pre-industrial world, writing and, especially, words were the main resources for evoking emotions and transmitting information.
The 19th century was one of bourgeois Revolutions, technological advances and the emergence of advances in a peasant society such as that of Spain, with landowners and masters, villages and cities. Photography took root in those provincial settings, a foreign invention attributed equally to Nicephore Niépce (1826) and Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre (1837), who was able to make the new development profitable. The first daguerreotype was taken in Barcelona on 10 November 1839, and a few days later another one was taken in Madrid. The technique then spread throughout Isabelline Spain, the cradle of the liberal bourgeoisie.
In Spain, the pioneering professionals were foreigners such as the Englishman Charles Clifford (1819-1863), based in Madrid in around 1850; the Frenchman Jean Laurent (1816-circa 1890), with his studio in the Court from 1856; and the exiled Polish Count of Lipa, who travelled through Spain in 1847; as well as Eugenio and Enrique Lorichon, who journeyed around our country taking pictures of landscapes and people. There were also other foreign photographers who left us excellent images, such as R.P. Napper, the members of the Levy Company, W. Atkinson and Paul Nadar. The first generation of Spanish photographers arose in around 1860. Of course, monarchs and courtiers also immortalised themselves through this new invention, bequeathing excellent examples of their talent in the Spanish nobility archives.

Sample of the work of the abbot J. Ferret: La photogravure facile et a bon marché, Paris, 1889. LUQUE, C. 243, D. 337

Letter from Manuel Company to Luis Fernández de Córdova and Remón Zarco del Valle, Colonel of the First Immemorial Infantry Regiment of the King and Marquis of Mendigorría, specifying a photographic commission (12-V-1900, Madrid). MENDIGORRÍA, C. 226, D. 377

Letter from Jules David, a photographer specialising in military groups, to Luis Fernández de Córdova and Remón Zarco del Valle, submitting the estimate for some photographic commissions (12-V-1900, Madrid). MENDIGORRÍA, C. 226, D. 425



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