Janez Puhar (also spelled Puhar, Puher, Puchar, or Pucher) was born in Kranj, Slovenia on August 26, 1814. Despite his working-class roots - his father was a stonemason - young Janez charted a more scholarly course at an early age. While a grammar school student in Ljubljana, he became fluent in German, French, Italian, and English, and in high school he excelled in botany, chemistry, mathematics, music, and physics. Although Mr. Puhar intended to pursue a career in art, he acquiesced to his mother's wishes and entered the priesthood in 1838.
After completing his seminary studies, he was sent to several Slovenian villages to serve as a chaplain. It is believed he discovered the new art of daguerreotype in Metlika, and his earliest experiments were published in the Carniola newspaper in late spring 1841. Because photographic processes were too costly for his meager income to afford, Fr. Puhar developed more inexpensive, but equally effective techniques utilizing sulfur, mercury, bromine, alcohol, and a transparent glass plate instead of metal. He further streamlined the process by first cleaning the glass plate coated with sulfur that was light sensitive. While holding the plate over a flame, it would be covered with iodized vapors. The prepared plate was then inserted into the back of a camera, and after setting the motif, he poured mercury into a metal flask that was placed at the bottom of the camera. The mercury was heated and the plate was exposed to light for 15 seconds. The mercury vapors coated the exposure and Puhar added bromine steam to enhance the image quality. The plate was then treated with alcohol, preserved with varnish, and coated with another glass plate to protect from scratches. Amazingly, this refined process only took 5-8 minutes. The first public reference to Fr. Puhar's invention was on April 19, 1842. However, they were completely overshadowed by Frenchman Claude Felix Abel Niepce de Saint-Victor's heavily promoted glass photography techniques. Fr. Puhar did not receive any official recognition for his groundbreaking invention until the Reports of the Vienna Academy of Sciences were published in 1851. Afterwards, he was invited to attend the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in London, where he received a bronze medal for one of his glass photographs and later attended a world exhibition in New York.
When Fr. Puhar was sent to the remote region of Certlje, he focused on serving people in need and never again appeared on the international photography scene. However, he continued his photographic experimentation, and it is believed repeated exposure to toxic chemicals contributed to his death from tuberculosis on August 7, 1864 at the age of 49. Janez Puhar left behind five photographs that have been lovingly preserved at Ljubljana's National Museum, the Museum of Architecture and Design, and in a private collection. Appropriately, a year-long photographic celebration of Fr. Puhar's 200th birthday was launched at the Slovene Academy of Science and Art on January 29, 2014. The "Janez Puhar Gold Medal for Best Portrait" was awarded at several 2014 International Federation of Photographic Art (FIAP) events in the year 2014 in such global locales as Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Luxembourg, Japan, and Argentina.
2014 Janez Puhar (1814-1864) (URL: http://www.fotodrustvo-kranj.si/wp-content/uploads/Internet-FDJP-Eng.pdf).
2007 Janez Puhar: Biography (URL: http://puhar.si).
2011 Janez Puhar, Inventor of Photography on Glass (URL: http://www.fotodrustvo-kranj.si/images-and-floats).
2013 Photography as Exhibited in The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, 1851 by Robin O'Dell (URL: http://digital.library.ryerson.ca/download_ds/RULA%3A2591/OBJ/Photography as exhibited in the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations%2C%201851).
Copyright © 2002 - 2019 Historic Camera