16 January 2008

Giphantie: the prophecy of photography (and film, tv, video, webcams...)


According to M. W. Marien (Photography, A Cultural History), prior to 1800, in utopian and speculative fiction there is only one example of imaginative anticipation of photography and film: the novel Giphantie by CHARLES-FRANCOIS TIPHAIGNE DE LA ROCHE (1722 - 1774), published in 1760.

“You know, that rays of light reflected from different bodies form pictures, paint the image reflected on all polished surfaces, for example, on the retina of the eye, on water, and on glass. The spirits have sought to fix these fleeting images; they have made a subtle matter by means of which a picture is formed in the twinkling of an eye. They coat a piece of canvas with this matter, and place it in front of the object to be taken. The first effect of this cloth is similar to that of a mirror, but by means of its viscous nature the prepared canvas, as is not the case with the mirror, retains a fac-simile of the image. The mirror represents images faithfully, but retains none; our canvas reflects them no less faithfully, but retains them all. This impression of the image is instantaneous. The canvas is then removed and deposited in a dark place. An hour later the impression is dry, and you have a picture the more precious in that no art can imitate its truthfulness.”

(excerpt of Giphantie from: http://www.precinemahistory.net/1750.htm )





On the two pages above, the transmission of images from different points of the earth to a mirror by means of "portions of air in the atmosphere reserved by the spirits for this task" anticipates television and also the contemporary global web cams.

The original work is available in the site Gallica BNF



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