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Joseph Nicéphore Niépce :

View from the Window at Le Gras, (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin) the first successful permanent photograph created by

Nicéphore Niépce in 1827,

in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes. Captured on 20 × 25 cm

oil-treated bitumen.

Due to the 8-hour exposure,

the buildings are illuminated

by the sun from both right and left.




What did Nicéphore Niépce have in mind when, in 1827, he pointed his camera out from the window of his house, in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes, to make the first photograph the world came to know ? Was Niépce, while facing his subject, mentally and physically perceiving and feeling its colours, already anticipating the outcome of an image of rather poorly defined Black Tones* ? Learning about the history of photography I have never found an answer to this question, which I find of extreme importance.

One can argue that Black Tone photography is the contrary of colour photography. Colour versus none colour, absence of colour, black. The shades of grey we perceive in a Black Tone photography are actually not grey at all, they are tones of black. Like any of the other colours, red, yellow, green etc. grey also becomes a shade of black, in a Black Tone photography, thus GREY IS A COLOR.

With the invention of colour photography, we find ourselves in this great divide between two ways of interpreting our world. I firmly believe that the perception of that which surrounds us is undeniably in colour while I don’t deny the beauty of Black Tone photography. 

During my long career as a photographer I have had, since the beginning, two priorities in my colour photography, first INTERIORS and second SHADES OF GREY. Is this why I started my Chinese Interiors photography series, where we find, in these photos of interiors, many shades of grey within subdued monochrome colours ?

Grey is a colour because it exists within our perception of colour.

In my “Grey Is A Colour” photographic series I have tried, in my own way, to combine the beauty of subtle colours in a majority of Grey environment. - RVDH


* Black tones or shades of Black, I don’t like the term “Black and White” 

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