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J.P. Girault de Prangey

Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey was born into a wealthy French landowning family in Langres, Burgundy on October 21, 1804. After graduating from college in Langres in 1826, he studied drawing and then went to Paris, where he took painting classes at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. While there, he met fellow painting student Jules Ziegler, who shared his interest in the newly invented daguerreotype. Mr. Girault de Prangey's early photographs reflect the influences of Louis-Jacques Mande Daguerre and Hippolyte Bayard. While experimenting with watercolors, he began exploring the photographic possibilities of his luminous drawings. In 1834 (or 1836), he became one of the founders of the Langres Archaeological Society, and this involvement led to his fascination with Moorish architecture and art. He traveled throughout Spain to study regional architecture, and during this period, his painting Promenade et tours d'enceinte de l'Alhambra was exhibited at the Salon. In 1841, he published Essai sur l'architecture des Arabes et des Mores en Espagne, en Sicile et en Barbarie, and began experimenting with photography, capturing images of Paris and famous landmarks such as the Tuileries and Notre Dame Cathedral.

Mr. Girault de Prangey relied upon his family's fortune to finance extensive excursions through Syria, Turkey, Egypt, the Palestine, and Greece. During a three-year-period, he used a variety of cameras, lenses, and equipment to produce more than 800 photographs, which are regarded as the first documented images of the Middle East and the Mediterranean. His full-plate exposures of the Acropolis and the Parthenon are believed to be the first of their kind. To photograph the Parthenon, he positioned himself and his camera to at a northern angle and was able to eliminate any perspective distortions by focusing upon its columns. Unfortunately, he had to photograph Islamic sacred structures at a distance in accordance with Muslim custom.

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