Le Portail de Saint-Trophime Nègre, Charles  (French, 1820-1880)

La Lumière was the journal of the world’s first photographic society, the Société Héliographique, founded in January, 1851. La Lumière began publication of 9 February making it the third photographic journal to appear worldwide; the other two began a few months earlier. Ernest Lacan became the editor on December of 1851 and continued in that position until he resigned in December of 1860. La Lumière initiated debate on how photographic images should be printed by promoting photomechanical research in techniques like photogravure and photolithography as solutions to the problems of permanency, reproducibility and combining photography with text on the printed page. The journal’s May 5, 1856 issue included a full page Paniconograph, a process invented by Gillot in 1850 that was one of the earliest methods of combining photographs and text.

Gillot employed the photographic asphaltum method on zinc plates for making photozincotypes. The original "paniconography" employed greasy ink transfers from lithographs, autographs, copperplate engravings, or wood engravings onto zinc plates, which were etched in relief with nitric acid after the so-called French zinc relief etching process.Charles Nègre was the first to make experiments in the production of halftone pictures in zincography by transferring photographic prints onto coarse-grained chromated gelatin tops (transfer with greasy ink). He joined Gillot, who transferred these collotypes with greasy inks onto zinc plates and etched them for typographic printing. The Lumière print is the first example of Nègre-Gillot’s halftone zincography printed, but was described in error by the editor, Lacan, as made by the asphaltum process; it shows a grain reminding one somewhat of the coarse, worm-like collotype grain, and on the other hand of the structure which forms in coating fissured asphaltum layers. Nègre called his method "gravure paniconographique en relief," and it seems that he produced them for Gillot, who called his zinc relief etchings generally "paniconographs." Thus one recognizes in these "paniconographs" the earliest methods of the photographic halftone process on zinc with a natural grain in the picture. Very few of these zinc etchings were produced, because the method was, on the one hand, too complicated for practical use, and, on the other, the pictures appeared too coarse. [1]

Reproduced / Exhibited

MET Accession Number: 2005.100.590.2


[1] Eder, History of Photography, Epsteam translation, Third Edition Dover 1905 (1945) p. 622