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the great nadar

When I began this blog in 2011, it’s main purpose was to help me learn the ropes of the fast-developing world of online content and social media, and look to find an audience I could establish a regular connection with.

Initially, I blogged every day for about 18 months, which was great fun and allowed me to roam far and wide, writing about whatever took my fancy from music and books to films and tv.

The response via post ‘comments’ and twitter responses made it a very uplifting experience and taught me a great deal about creating engaging content, which I then tried to pass onto journalism students it’s been my pleasure to work with in more recent times.

Fast forward to now and an MA in Photographic History at De Montfort University in Leicester has now brought me to Durham University where I am studying for a PhD, looking at the influence of press photography on popular journalism at the turn of the 20th century.

So I’ve decided to give this blog (with its more than 500 posts) a new focus in what I hope will be a weekly appearance, posting every Sunday evening.

Alongside my doctoral reading, I’ve been enjoying newly-published books with a photographic theme, which you might wish to add to your Christmas list.

First up is Adam Begley’s The Great Nadar: The Man Behind The Camera (Tim Duggan Books, New York, $28.00 / £18.99).

The images created by the photographer Gaspard-Felix Tournachon (1820-1910), universally known as Nadar, are familiar to any student of the canon of photography, particular his portraits of the great and the good taken in mid-to-late 19th century France.

Charles Baudelaire, George Sand, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Sarah Bernhardt – the list of his star-studded clients appears endless.

Museums and galleries around the globe have examples of the work produced by his Paris studio, which on its store-front boasted his giant signature reproduced in glass tubing – ‘Nadar.’

MoMA collection, New York – Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon)

National Portrait Gallery, London – Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon)

What I enjoyed hugely about Begley’s book is its lightly-worn research and academic rigour, which tells the story of someone who was so much more than a brilliant photographer.

Particularly fascinating are the sections which explore Nadar’s skills as a caricaturist, and his later obsession with ballooning and pioneering work in capturing photographic images of the world below.

He even plays a significant part in creating what photojournalism scholars regard as the first photo interview using a sequence of images taken, by Nadar’s son Paul, of him talking to the scientist Eugene Chevreul on his 100th birthday.

Nadar with Eugène Chevreul 1886 – Suzanne Winsberg Collection

Pleasingly, which isn’t always the case with books about photography, this one is beautifully illustrated with images that appear next to or close by the textual point which is being made.

Like all good books with a great story to tell, it will send you back to the wonder of Nadar’s photographs.

One Response to “the great nadar”

  1. Jonathan says:

    Lovely to see the blog back!

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