Rendering the first photograph in history

Last Thursday, 19th August, we released on our Facebook and Instagram profiles a render that hardly resembles anything we have done before. The image, depicting a worn-out farm and some brick buildings, certainly stands out from our feed and could not be further away from our usual line of work. So, why did we do it?

Render interpreting what «Point de vue du Gras» would've been like. Visualisation by Momentum

The answer is rather simple: to celebrate the World Photography Day and the picture that historians agree to be the oldest permanent image known to mankind that was captured by a camera obscura type of device. The still image was produced by French inventor Nicéphore Niépce, circa 1826, from the window of his own office, at his family house in Chalon-sur-Saône.

Original «Point de vue du Gras» Photograph

The picture was captured through what Niépce called a “heliographic” (sun + writing) process and took around 8 hours to be made — a pewter plate was coated in a mix of light-sensitive bitumen and lavender oil before being exposed to the sun.

Why 19th August?

World Photography Day is observed every 19th of August to celebrate one of the most fascinating innovations in human history. In fact, this was the day when, back in 1839, more than 10 years after Niépce’s heliograph, the French government purchased the patent for the Daguerreotype process and offered it to the world. The “Daguerreotype", you may ask?
Niépce was the first to acknowledge his process needed to be improved, and he partnered with artist and fellow inventor Louis Daguerre, in 1829. After Niépce’s sudden death, Daguerre continued to experiment with the process and introduced a series of improvements, notable reducing the required exposure time to a few minutes or even seconds. In 1839, the Daguerreotype was presented to the world.

The challenges of rendering «Point de vue du Gras»

One of the biggest challenges we faced, was the lack of information regarding what was seen that day. Most of the buildings don't exist anymore and even the window where the photograph was taken from, was moved 70cm from its original site. We managed to find a small documentary and an image of a maquette, recreating what was there that day.
Another fun thing we noticed while doing this is that we had an unrealistic lighting scenario. If we look closely to the original photo, the left-side tower and right-side tower are lit the same, as if the sun was hitting it directly. That happens because the photograph took 8 hours to be captured, meaning, the Sun shifted radically it's position, thus giving this effect.
In the end, we had to use a bit of creative freedom to express and guess, what would've been there that day.

Clay view of the 3D model done for our rendering. Visualisation by Momentum

Pictures have played a central role in our society since the dawn of time, and the possibility of a photographic process had long excited humankind. From ancient times, with pre-historic cave art, to present-day computer imagery, images have an unrivalled power to fix memories, convey meaning, tell stories, share knowledge, and above all, inspire. Such is our goal.
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