Gustave Le Gray, ‘[The Great Wave, Sète]’, 1857, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Image rights: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Gift of John Goldsmith Phillips, 1976), licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal

About Gustave Le Gray

Boldly asserting in 1850 that photography’s future would lie on paper, Gustave Le Gray refined the emerging French method of developing photographs from paper negatives, using thinner paper and coating it with wax to produce crisper images. Le Gray set out to establish photography’s place among the fine arts and largely achieved that goal with his celebrated portraits and photographs of Paris streetscapes and the Fontainebleau Forest. Although he was trained as a painter, Le Gray distinguished himself as a photographer by recognizing the medium as an independent art form with a unique set of rules that did not necessarily derive from painting. Combining the collodion-on-glass and paper negative processes, he created dynamic images of waves crashing on the shore that many consider to have inspired Claude Monet to paint along the Normandy coast.

French, 1820-1884, Villier-le-Bel, France, based in Cairo, Egypt