Why the Inventor of Photography Faked His Own Death

Hippolyte Bayard was an artist, collector, inventor, and photographic pioneer who lived from 1801 until 1886 and claimed to have invented the photographic process before his contemporaries, Louis-Jacques Mandé Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot. When Bayard presented his photography process to Paris, no one really seemed to care.

The interesting thing about most inventions is that they are generally built upon common knowledge, resulting in many critical inventions being come upon at the same time (see: the lightbulb). So, seeing this video from Vox is fascinating, since many of us have heard of the Daguerreotype, which was the first widespread method of photography, but the process of Hippolyte Bayard is one I had never heard of. 

Bayard and Daguerre seem to have a story worthy of an Oscar-winning movie, where one is a rich socialite who uses his success to leverage more success and the other is a nobody who, while having a product that is just as good, has a hard time getting their idea off the ground due to lack of connections and some political shenanigans. While an Oscar movie would likely have a happier ending than "and then Bayard was forgotten to history," that's not how life always plays out.

Without going into too much detail about the video itself, it's a good and rather short watch. I will say that it's interesting to see just how far reaching the contributions of someone who was "lost" can be. What did you think of the video? Have you heard of Bayard before? Or, like me, was this all new information?

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5 Comments

Simon Patterson's picture

Interesting video, thanks for the link.

Great video. Fascinating story.

AS the video shows, Niepce was the first to present a true photographic image to the world and is thus generally awarded the honor. Daugerre and Bayard used processes more familiar to modern photography but Niepce still was the first.

Rod Kestel's picture

What a great story, beautifully presented. Thanks.