Oldest Surviving Photo Reportage On Display At Špilberk Castle

A copy of a photograph by Bedřich Franz will be exhibited in the tower of Špilberk Castle until Sunday. The original photograph is part of the collection of the Brno City Museum and was taken in Zelny trh on June 10th, 1841, using the daguerreotype method, the first complex photographic process. Photo Credit: KB / BD.

Brno, June 11 (BD) – From yesterday, until Sunday, Špilberk Castle is hosting a photographic exhibition by Bedřich Franz, to celebrate 180 years since he captured the Corpus Christi celebration in Zelny trh in 1841. On Monday, the photograph will be replaced by a modern daguerreotype that depicts the same scene.

Bedřich Franz captured the moment from the window of the National Theatre of Brno (NdB), using the daguerreotype method. This method, invented in 1837 by Louis Daguerre, was the first practical complex photographic process to provide a single positive copy, not reproducible, on a silver or silver-plated copper support.  Also known as the “mirror with a memory”,  the image appears both positive and negative, creating the effect of three-dimensionality. 

“After the invention of the daguerreotype, several pictures were certainly taken earlier than 1841, but none of them are so-called reportage, i.e. they do not show people in motion or at an event. The oldest surviving image of this kind is the one from the Feast of the Corpus Christi at Zelný trh in Brno,” said the curator of the exhibition, Petr Vachůt.

Bedřich Franz was a scientist and professor of physics and applied mathematics at the University of Olomouc, where he met the young Johann Gregor Mendel and directed his further professional career to Brno. Franz was also a photographer who took studio pictures, especially portraits of his friends and colleagues, and also open-air architecture, but these photographs have not been preserved, unlike the daguerreotype capturing the liturgical ceremony in Brno.

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