This is another of my Christmas presents: The Great Nadar. The Man Behind the Camera. By Adam Begley.
Possibly the greatest photographer of his age Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (brand name Nadar) was a friend of numerous celebrities many of whom he photographed including: Alexandre Dumas , Théophile Gautier, Gérard de Nerval, Charles Baudelaire, Victor Hugo, George Sand, Honoré Daumier, Jules Verne, Sarah Bernhardt and scores of others. His portraits are superb – definitely on the same level as other famous portrait photographers e.g. Julia Margaret Cameron; Richard Avedon; Yousuf Karsch; Arnold Newman etc. He was the first to photograph from the air (i.e. from a balloon) and the first to photograph underground (e.g. in the catacombs of Paris).
But Nadar was much more than that. Before he turned to photography he had lived a bohemian life and had become a famous illustrator. He’d also written novels and plays. Later he turned to aeronautics becoming a strong advocate of heavier than air flight and, curiously a renowned baloonist. He flew in one of the largest balloons of the time: and almost died (along with his wife who was also a passenger) when “Le Géant (Giant)” eventually crashed (See: Flight of the Giant).
It’s a great read and is filled with numerous wonderful examples of Nadar’s work. I thoroughly enjoyed it.