Born in Lyon, France on August 12, 1797, Antoine Francois Jean Claudet was the second of six children. After his father’s death in 1807, the large family was raised by their mother, receiving assistance from other relatives whenever possible. At the request of his uncle, Mr. Claudet moved to Paris in 1818 to embark upon a banking career, but quickly became fascinated by the process of glassmaking. After his marriage to Julie Bourdelain, her nephew Georges Bontemps named him assistant director of Ponces Grimblot's studio located on the outskirts of Paris.
Relocating to London to open his own glass warehouse in 1829, Mr. Claudet became a serious student of the daguerreotype process, and traveled to Paris to be taught its fundamentals by the creator himself, Louis-Jacques Daguerre. Upon his return to England, Mr. Claudet purchased a daguerreotype operating license, and although his first daguerreotypes were of Rome and Paris, he soon focused exclusively upon creating and selling daguerreotypes that featured Victorian London. Mr. Claudet sought to speed up the daguerreotype exposure process, which led to his patent that recommended using red light and flat, painted backgrounds in darkrooms.
In June 1841, Mr. Claudet opened the Adelaide Gallery daguerreotype studio, which re-ignited his professional rivalry with another London daguerreotypist, Richard Beard. However, Mr. Claudet's studio quickly became the more popular of the two, and his inclusion of camera equipment imports further cemented his reputation in England and elsewhere. These sales also financed Mr. Claudet's daguerreotype research.
Because his process reduced the time that was required for portrait sitting considerably, Mr. Claudet's subjects look more natural in comparison to other daguerreotypes produced during the mid-nineteenth century. In 1842, he began turning his attentions to stereoscopic photography, which became his primary preoccupation throughout the next decade. Mr. Claudet's skillful employment of the calotype process developed by William Henry Fox Talbot enabled him to produce a large number of prints from negatives. During this period, he also experimented extensively with Frederick Scott Archer's wet collodion processes.
Mr. Claudet's Temple to Photography was opened in 1851, and so impressed Queen Victoria that he became the official royal photographer two years' later. Also in 1853, he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society. During his lifetime, Mr. Claudet composed more than 40 papers documenting his scientific research, which expanded to include stereoscopes. He secured a patent for a folding pocket stereoscope in March of 1853, and two years' later was issued another patent for a large stereoscope upon which up to 100 slides could be rotated. This was a crucial first step in the eventual screen projection of motion pictures.
Seventy-year-old Antoine Claudet died on December 27, 1867. Sadly, shortly afterward, a fire swept through his Temple to Photography studio, destroying nearly 20,000 prints, negatives, and daguerreotypes. Fortunately, some of Mr. Claudet's daguerreotypes still exist and are being exhibited in historical photographic collections throughout the world, including the National Galleries of Scotland and the J. Paul Getty Museum.
2008 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 302-304.
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