Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey, Self-portrait,1841–42. Daguerreotype, 4 3/4 × 3 11/16 in.
In 1842, artist, architectural historian, archaeologist, and pioneer photographer Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey (1804–1892) embarked on a three-year photographic excursion throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, and he returned to France with more than one thousand daguerreotypes—an unparalleled feat in the history of photography. Among the images he created are the earliest surviving photographs of Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, and Jerusalem and among the first daguerreotypes depicting Italy.
A trailblazer of the daguerreotype process, Girault used oversize plates and innovative formats to produce what is today the world's oldest photographic archive—all in the service of a brand-new type of archaeological fieldwork. This exhibition, the first in the United States devoted to Girault, and the first to focus on his Mediterranean journey, features approximately 120 of his daguerreotypes, supplemented by examples of his graphic work—watercolors, paintings, and his lithographically illustrated publications.