Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pilgrimage: Chalon-sur-Saone

Today I traveled south to Chalon-sur-Saone, a small city in far south of the Burgundy region of France.  I have supplied a map for your convenience:

The main attraction (for me and my conservation-laden agenda) in Chalon-sur-Saone, and therefore my big reason for returning to Paris, is the Musee Nicephore Niepce.  

What, or who to be more precise, is Nicephore Niepce?  Niepce (1765-1833) is one of the fathers of photography.  I say fathers plural because many gentlemen of leisure with scientific interests were experimenting in similar directions concurrently.  

Niepce was a native of Chalon-sur-Saone and a resident for most (I think) of his life, so Chalon-sur-Saone is understandably proud of its most famous resident.

Circa 1826 Niepce was messing around with bitumen and oil of lavender and ended up creating the first photograph.  Lost almost a century, the first photograph was rediscovered by a man named Helmut Gernsheim and now resides at the Henry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin.  It also lives in a super-controlled environment, filled with argon gas or something anoxically-intense like that.  (FYI, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution also reside in anoxic environments.  And by the way, the movie National Treasure is jam-packed full of crazy.)

This is what the first photograph looks like.  Pretty crappy.  Makes one feel better about one's casual snapshots, doesn't it?

It takes some special tinkering to make a copy of the first photograph that actually looks like something.  This is a view out into the courtyard of Niepce's estate near Chalon-sur-Saone.  The exposure time probably took all day.

The museum was pretty fun.  There were some good shows, and a nice portion of the permanent collection was on display.  My favorite part was the segment where you could watch old French Kodak commercials on a little TV.  Old-timey commercials are really fabulously ridiculous.

Chalon-sur-Saone is also a tourist attraction unto itself, as it is part of the Burgundy wine country.  It is also very charming.  Old timber framed buildings, leaning out into the square!

The city's Cathedral, Saint Vincent's.

Part Romanesque, part Gothic, part 19th-century.  There were some very contemporary stained glass windows, which made me wonder if older ones were blasted out during one or both of the World Wars.

Chapeau store!  If only I had room in my bags, one of these chapeaus could have been mine.  Woe is me.

I really like the colors on this passage.

Weiner dogs must remain in the gutter, all other dogs are allowed on the sidewalk.  These were all over the sidewalks.

Looking back into the old part of the city.

1 comment:

meu102 said...

I had just been reading about this guy the other day. Some Open Source software dude is developing a photography work-flow tool for Linux and is naming it after Niepce.