Mali Map

Felix Nadar in Mali

This modest gravestone, often obscured by overgrown foliage, marks the final resting place of a number of members of the Tournachon family, better known as the Nadars. The two most well known residents are celebrated and pioneering photographers Felix Nadar and his son, Paul. Gaspard Felix Tournachon (he tookthe name Nadar from a nickname or slang word from his youth) eked out a living as a part-time writer and caricaturist before drifting into photography in 1853.

He opened his first photography studio in 1854 and took well-executed portraits of many of the political, literary and artistic figures of the time, many of whom were his friends. Never content to do just one thing, Nadar pioneered the use of artificial light using the catacombs of Paris as his subject. In 1858, using a balloon, he tookthe world’s first aerial photograph, and in the early 1860s he built an enormous balloon, Le Geant (The Giant), that inspired Jules Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon.

In 1874, his son, Paul Nadar, became manager of his studio on Rue d’Anjou. The relationship was, by most accounts, stormy. However, in 1886 father and son collaborated in what is said to be the first photo interview with 101-year-old chemist and color theorist Michel-Eugene Chevreul. Paul inherited his father’s curiosity and inventiveness, becoming an avid aeronaut and perfecting his father’s experiments in aerial photography. Paul also patented a still photo projection system and further developed artificial lighting. In 1890 he took a long photography trip through Europe and Asia visually documenting seldom-seen locales. In 1893 he became the agent for Eastman Kodak in France.

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