Félix Nadar

Félix Nadar (1820–1910) is one of the greatest figures in the history of photography. Eduardo Cadava, a writer, translator, and scholar, is the author of Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History, coeditor of The Itinerant Languages of Photography, and Professor of English at Princeton University. Liana Theodoratou, Clinical Professor of Hellenic Studies and Director of the A. S. Onassis Program in Hellenic Studies at New York University, is a scholar and writer and the translator of several works by Althusser, Derrida, and Foucault into modern Greek.

  • When I Was a Photographer

    When I Was a Photographer

    Félix Nadar

    The first complete English translation of Nadar's intelligent and witty memoir, a series of vignettes that capture his experiences in the early days of photography.

    Celebrated nineteenth-century photographer—and writer, actor, caricaturist, inventor, and balloonist—Félix Nadar published this memoir of his photographic life in 1900 at the age of eighty. Composed as a series of vignettes (we might view them as a series of “written photographs”), this intelligent and witty book offers stories of Nadar's experiences in the early years of photography, memorable character sketches, and meditations on history. It is a classic work, cited by writers from Walter Benjamin to Rosalind Krauss. This is its first and only complete English translation.

    In When I Was a Photographer (Quand j'étais photographe), Nadar tells us about his descent into the sewers and catacombs of Paris, where he experimented with the use of artificial lighting, and his ascent into the skies over Paris in a hot air balloon, from which he took the first aerial photographs. He recounts his “postal photography” during the 1870-1871 Siege of Paris—an amazing scheme involving micrographic images and carrier pigeons. He describes technical innovations and important figures in photography, and offers a thoughtful consideration of society and culture; but he also writes entertainingly about such matters as Balzac's terror of being photographed, the impact of a photograph on a celebrated murder case, and the difference between male and female clients. Nadar's memoir captures, as surely as his photographs, traces of a vanished era.

    • Hardcover $26.95