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Adolphe Braun (1812-1877)

“His opulent bouquets of flowers are at once lush, delicate, and richly tonal; his landscapes are breath taking and immediate; his animal studies arresting; his war photos dramatic and unrelenting.”

- Thames A. Hudson

Adolphe Braun is one of the most influential 19th century French photographers. Through technological innovation, mass marketing, and a strong sense of design, Braun was able to merge a fine art aesthetic with commercial prowess.  Braun was born in the French industrial town of Mulhouse and was trained as a fabric designer in his home town and later in Paris.  In the 1850’s, after the development of the wet collodian process, Braun began to take an interest in the sharp, fine details one could represent through the photographic medium.  He was also interested in newfound reproducibility of the photograph that was in sharp contrast to the one-of-a-kind images that were created using the daguerreotype up until that time. In 1853, Adolphe Braun officially began his photography career. His first assignments were flower photographs used for the catalog titled Fleurs photographiées.  These photographs were taken to be transferred onto printing blocks for wallpaper and fabric designs. This project was extremely successful and gave Braun a strong reputation in France. In fact, one album of the photographs was presented to Empress Eugénie of France, and it earned him a medal at the 1855 Paris Exposition Universelle. Braun’s initial success was encouraging, and he decided to expand his work by exploring a variety of different themes from landscape to architecture.  His romantic vision and neatly composed Alpine views were in high demand, especially by the growing number of tourists during the middle of the 19th century.   As new photographic technologies emerged, Braun began experimenting with alternate printing methods such as the stereoscope, which rendered imagery (typically Swiss tourist destinations) in three dimensions and panoramic views.  On a commercial level, these images were a financial success for Braun because they were relatively inexpensive yet they were in high demand, usually as souvenir purchases.  By the late 1800’s, Braun shifted direction once again and began working on photographic reproductions of works of art.  He made reproductions of paintings, drawings, lithographs, engravings, and sculptures which have served as a great historical resource to the history of France.  In fact, Braun’s studio became one of the world’s largest publishers of such imagery.  Adolphe Braun was an ambitious businessman and an innovative photographer; a combination of skills that were a perfect formula for success and made him one of nineteenth century’s great commercial figures in photography. 

Related Links & References::

George Eastman House archives

Image and Enterprise: The Photographs of Adolphe Braun By Thames A. Hudson


 

     
     

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