Born Jean Baptiste Bernoud, the celebrated daguerreotypist and portrait photographer Alphonse Bernoud was born in Meximieux, Lyon, France on February 4, 1820. Details of his childhood in France are unknown. It is believed his photographic career began as a daguerreotypist on the Liguria Coast. The daguerreotype was in its infancy, but the itinerant young photographer made the most of its capabilities when he settled in Italy in 1841. He freely experimented with various calotype and wet plate collodion processes. Based in Genoa from 1842 to 1850, Mr. Bernoud further enhanced his professional status as a skilled daguerreotypist. He was the first photographer in Italy to operate successful photographic firms in three cities - Florence, Livorno, and Naples.
By the 1850s, Mr. Bernoud was proudly displaying his inventive photographic proofs and stereoscopic views captured on both glass and paper at Florence's Esposizione Industriale Toscana. These images generated such an industry buzz, they were featured in the weekly periodical La Lumiere, one of the most influential photographic publications of the period. This professional exposure led to invitations at other prestigious international expositions. Despite his success in Italy, Mr. Bernoud maintained close ties with his native France as evidenced by his active membership in the Societe Francaise de Photographie from 1855 until 1864. His work was also displayed at the Paris Exhibitions of 1855, 1857, and 1867.
In 1856, Mr. Bernoud moved to Naples, but continued working as a portrait photographer in Florence and Livorno as well. He was granted unprecedented access first to the Bourbon court and later to the royal Italian court. His portfolio is a virtual "Who's Who" of diplomats, theatrical performers, authors, scientists, and military leaders. He was one of the first photographers who understood the documentary importance of photography, and worked diligently to develop its potential on an international stage.
When a catastrophic earthquake ravaged Montemurro, Italy in 1857, Mr. Bernoud and his camera captured stereoscopic views of the widespread devastation. He also created a photographic record of the collapse of the Two Kingdoms of Sicily (Regno delle Due Sicilie) in 1860-61, the unveiling of Dante Alighieri's monument in Florence in 1865, and the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 1872. In addition, Mr. Bernoud was featuring his stereoscopic views on cartes-de-visite, or picture postcards that were extremely popular in the late nineteenth century. One of his cartes-de-visite was awarded a prize at the 1861 Italian Exhibition. When not making photographs, Mr. Bernoud was publishing texts that showcased his images, such as L'Italia contemporanea (1864), a collection of historical photographs.
In 1872, Mr. Bernoud abruptly shut down his Italian studios and returned to his beloved France, settling in Lyon. Three years' later, he presented a series of botanical photographs to the Societe Francaise de Photographie, and continued to work as a portrait photographer until his retirement in 1886. Sixty-nine-year-old Alphonse Bernoud died on November 24, 1889.
2012 Dante in the Long Nineteenth Century: Nationality, Identity, and Appropriation (New York: Oxford University Press), p. 106.
2008 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 149-150.
2007 Luminous Lint for Connoisseurs of Fine Photography (URL: http://www.luminous-lint.com/app/photographer/Alphonse__Bernoud/A/).
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