French Photographer. Born Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, he was known only as Nadar. He was a French photographer, caricaturist, journalist, novelist, balloonist and proponent of manned flight. After his father's death, he decided to quit his medical studies because of financial reasons and started working as a caricaturist and novelist for various newspapers. His work was published in Le Charivari for the first time in 1848. In 1849, he founded the Revue comique and the Petit journal pour rire. From work as a caricaturist, he moved on to photography, particularly portraits. He photographed a wide range of personalities including politicians, stage actors, writers, painters, and musicians. Portrait photography was going through a period of native industrialization and Nadar used natural daylight going against traditional decors and accessories. In 1858, he was the first person to take aerial photographs. He also pioneered the use of artificial lighting in photography, working in the catacombs of Paris. He was the first person to photograph above ground with his balloons, as well as the first to photograph below ground, in the catacombs of Paris. In 1863, he commissioned the prominent balloonist Eugène Godard to construct an enormous balloon, 196 feet high and with a capacity of 210,000 cubic feet, and named Le Géant (The Giant), thereby inspiring Jules Verne's Five Weeks in a Balloon. Le Géant was badly damaged at the end of its second flight, leading Nadar to the conviction that heavier-than-air machines would be more successful. Later, "The Society for the Encouragement of Aerial Locomotion by Means of Heavier than Air Machines" was established, with him as president and Verne as secretary. He was also the inspiration for the character of Michael Ardan in Verne's From the Earth to the Moon. On his visit to Brussels with Le Géant, on 26 September 1864, Nadar erected mobile barriers to keep the crowd at a safe distance. Crowd control barriers are still known in Belgium as Nadar barriers. During the Siege of Paris in 1870 to 1871 Nadar was instrumental in organizing balloon flights carrying mail to reconnect the besieged Parisians with the rest of the world, thus establishing the world's first airmail service. In April 1874, he loaned his photo studio to a group of painters to present the first exhibition of the Impressionists. He also photographed Victor Hugo on his death-bed in 1885. In 1886, with his son Paul, he did what may be the first photo-report: an interview with the great scientist Chevreul who was then 100 years old. It was published in Le Journal Illustré. From 1895 until his return to Paris in 1909, the Nadar photo studio was in Marseilles. He died in 1910, aged 89. He was buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. The studio continued under the direction of his son and long-term collaborator, Paul Nadar. Near the end of his life, he published Quand j’étais photographe, which was translated into English and published by MIT press in 2015. The book is full of both anecdotes and samples of his photography, including many portraits of recognizable names.
Bio by: Glendora