On January 7, 1839, the physicist François Arago, during a session of the Académie des Sciences de Paris, presented a new process developed by the French inventor Jacques Daguerre that reproduced images formed in the camera obscura mechanically and chemically, without manual intervention. The daguerreotype thus marks the official birth of photography.
A single picture on a shimmering copper plate covered with silver, polished and often as reflective as a mirror - an item it was often compared with -, the daguerreotype is sometimes, in France in particular, a disregarded episode in the beginnings of photography. Many books about the history of photography offer only a brief mention of Daguerre's invention, of which only the fad for portraits seems to subsist, mocked by Daumier and Nadar, a craze that seized a whole era in which people of all ages posed in front of the lens, erect and black. The daguerreotype thus appears only as a remarkable yet aborted experiment in the development of photography.