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Joseph, Vicomte Vigier (French, 1821 – 1894) was one of Gustave Le Gray’s most successful pupils. His comfortable mastery of Talbot’s calotype as well as Le Gray's wax paper negative process gave him great flexibility. Using these two techniques and an exceptionally large camera, Vigier led armchair travelers on an 1853 summer journey through the Pyrenees. 

By 1850 – 1851 Vigier was already familiar with the Pyrenees landscape when he traveled from Paris to Seville to photograph in the Andalusian capital. He went to England in 1852 to visit his childhood schoolmate, Henri d’Orléans, son of the exiled King Louis-Philippe, at Claremont where Vigier photographed the family.

Certainly the 1853 album Voyage dans les Pyrénées was Vigier’s magnum opus. Most of his Pyrenees views rely on a deceptively straight forward depiction of a path or roadway, a rustic bridge or a rushing stream. Occasionally, a dramatic obstacle is exploited. In one photograph his pathway is obliterated by an avalanche, in another, boulders seem to block the trail in the aptly named Chaos of Gavarnie. Made among lofty snow capped peaks and fertile valleys, these ambitious photographs were unanimously praised in both France and England, and provided proof of the universal and timeless language of photography.

Vicomte Vigier was a founding member of the Société héliographique and the Société française de photographie.

Recommended reading:
Larry J. Schaaf with Russell Lord, Sun Pictures Catalogue Sixteen, Joseph, vicomte Vigier, Voyage dans les Pyrénées 1853 (New York: Hans P. Kraus Jr. Inc., 2007)

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