In the 1850s, when Camille Silvy gave up his career as a diplomat to devote himself to photography, the artform was in its infancy.

In the 1850s, when Camille Silvy gave up his career as a diplomat to devote himself to photography, the artform was in its infancy. By demonstrating its almost limitless creative potential, Sylvy had - within a few years - helped transform the medium.Examples from his early work include images documenting an official trip to Algeria and pictures of French rural and small-town life. Moving to London, he set up a highly successful commercial studio, producing thousands of society portraits. But alongside the glamour, he also explored the mysteries of London street life, using pioneering special effects to give evocative and ethereal views of the fog-filled city and its cosmopolitain inhabitants.

National Portrait Gallery

St Martin's Place, London, WC2H 0HE

020 7306 0055

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