Nadar was established in 1840 by 'the father of photography', Gaspard-Félix
Tournachon (1820-1910). Tournachon, nicknamed Nadar, was a
French photographer, caricaturist, novelist, journalist, and balloonist.
As he struggled to make a living as a journalist and caricaturist,
he was persuaded to take up photography. He learnt the collodion
process, and teamed up with his brother Adrien in 1853 in his studio. At
the time when professional studios imitated portrait painting through
the uses of props, such as columns and curtains, to surround their
sitters, Nadar became aware of portrait photography's power of expression
simply through the sitter's pose, facial expression and body language,
and with those tools, it was possible to capture the sitter's personality.
By 1855, his portraits received praise at the Universal Exhibition
in Paris. In 1859 he opened his own studio and went on to
enjoy great success. He continued to write and work as a caricaturist,
and his ballooning adventures made him an international figure in
the 1860s. He opened his new studio in 1872 and eventually
retired from photography in 1886, but continued to write.
He founded the the magazine Paris Photographe. His
son Paul continued the atelier's work. Nadar photographed
architecture, landscapes (he was the first person to take aerial
photographs), the sewers and catacombs of Paris, but it is his
portraits that brought him acclaim. They are
distinctive for their plain dark background, and their simplicity
and directness makes them all the more remarkable.