In a nutshell: The Met’s exhibition “Monumental Journey” features Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey’s daguerreotypes, which include the earliest surviving photographs of many notable cities and monuments in the Eastern Mediterranean, including Athens and many of its Ancient temples.
New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has mounted a stunning exhibition of the first known photographs of Greece, and much of the Eastern Mediterranean, by a French photographer named Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey.
Entitled “Monumental Journey: The Daguerreotypes of Girault de Prangey,” the exhibition includes a selection of about 120 of the more than 1,000 photographs taken by the traveling photographer in Greece, Egypt and elsewhere in the region between 1842 and 1845.
Monumental Journey is organized largely according to the route Girault himself took on his travels, through what are now Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and the West Bank, before returning to France.
This exhibition, the first in the United States devoted to Girault, and the first to focus on his Mediterranean journey
Girault’s daguerreotypes include the earliest surviving photographs of many notable cities and monuments in the Eastern Mediterranean: the Athenian Acropolis, Jerusalem, the impressive Roman temples of Baalbek, and more.
Special display cases highlight his rare photographs of people, or the boxes he used to store his daguerreotypes back home. Texts on the walls as well as maps — including Girault’s own map from the expedition — help to orient visitors.
The “daguerreotype” was the first commercially successful photographic process in the history of photography, used in the 1840s for about two decades, before new techniques were developed. Named after the inventor, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, each daguerreotype is a unique image on a silvered copper plate. In contrast to photographic paper, a daguerreotype is not flexible and is rather heavy.The daguerreotype is accurate, detailed and sharp. It has a mirror-like surface and is very fragile.
What Others Are Saying:
“a buffed jewel of an exhibition” —New York Times
“an extraordinary—and very moving—exhibition. . . . a poetic meditation on vanished empire, memory, and loss.” —ArtNews
“It is a mark of this triumphant show that the more we learn about him, the more remarkable and mysterious he seems.” —Wall Street Journal
“what is most compelling about these images is how alien they are to contemporary photography. ” —4Columns
“a delight for both photo nerds and history buffs alike. . . . This one is a must see.” —BuzzFeed News
Can’t make it to the Met? Buy the exhibition catalogue
Details: Monumental Journey: The Daguerreotypes of Girault de Prangey continues through May 12, 2019 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan). The exhibition was curated by Stephen C. Pinson, and organized by the Met in collaboration with the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Need more details? Click here.