Hippolyte Bayard (19th century)

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The Drowned Man

Hippolyte Bayard (1801-1887) was a French inventor who is known as a 'forgotten pioneer.' In 1840, he made one of his most well known images, 'Le Noye (Self-Portrait as a Drowned Man)' which appears on the cover of Batchen's 'Burning with Desire'

Hippolyte Bayard - Drownedman 1840.jpg

On the back of the print he wrote:

"The corpse which you see here is that of M. Bayard, inventor of the process that you have just seen, or the marvellous results of which you are soon going to see. To my knowledge, this ingenious and indefatigable researcher has been working for about three years to perfect his invention.. The Academy, the King and all those who have seen his pictures, that he himself found imperfect, have admired them as you do at this moment. This has brought him much honour but has not yielded him a single farthing. The government, having given too much to M. Daguerre, said it could do nothing for M. Bayard and the unhappy man drowned himself. Oh! The fickleness of human affairs! Artists, scholars, journalists were occupied with him for a long time, but here he has been at the morgue for several days, and no-one has recognised or claimed him. Ladies and Gentlemen, you'd better pass along for fear of offending your sense of smell, for as you can observe, the face and hands of the gentleman are beginning to decay."


Geoffrey Batchen 'Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography' p.157-173 (The MIT Press, 1999)

Ian Jeffrey 'A Concise History of Photography' p. 16-26 (Thames and Hudson, 2010)