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Indulging my interest in food and flavor, I love to write about cooking, gardening and life's bounty. My new book - "Discover Cooking with Lavender"- is now available

Friday, May 01, 2009

Picture This: Lavender Oil Used To Create World's First Photograph

Lavender, the Swiss army knife of herbs, seems to be capable of anything and everything. Rubbed on burns, added to soap and lotions, infused in sugar and planted in our gardens, lavender continues to surprise me. Would you believe me if I told you lavender played a pivotal role in the world’s first photograph?

In the summer of 1826, a gentleman named Joseph Niepce created a photograph at his country estate in Eastern France. Ten years earlier, he began experimenting with photography in. Saint-Loup-de-Varennes. Niepce had been fascinated with lithography. He placed engraved images on stone and he had been successful making copies of images using a light sensitive varnish.

When he combined this lithographic technique with the camera obscura, Niepce was successful in creating a photographic image of the scene from an upstairs window in his country home. The image captures rooftops, trees and outbuildings.

Niepce set a camera obscura in the upstairs bedroom window. He used a pewter plate coated with bitumen and exposed it to light for eight hours. The bitumen exposed to the sunlight became hardened. A mixture of lavender oil and white petroleum was used to wash the pewter plate, dissolving the bitumen that was not exposed to light. The result was a positive negative image of the view from that upstairs bedroom. Niepce, recognizing the role of the sun, called this a heliograph.

Lavender, also dependent on the sun for its existence, continues to amaze me. For its versatility and simplicity, this all purpose herb is hard to beat.

1 comment:

Lovely Lavender said...

I knew that lavender had many uses, but never realized it was used in the first photograph. It is amazing that someone would think to try to capture an image using an essential oil. A great story - thanks for sharing it!