In 1999, Pierre-Yves Mahé, founder of Spéos photographic school, rented on the Gras estate, the part of the house where Niépce had located his laboratory-workshop in Saint-Loup de Varennes.
Pierre-Yves Mahe was the first photographer to occupy the place since the inventor’s death in 1833. The historical residence had remained unexplored until then, just gazed at from outside by some curious people.
With Jean-Louis Marignier, a scientist at the CNRS (French National Center of Scientific Research), they recreated Niépce’s working conditions, and with methodical diggings they rediscovered the site of his experiments.
See our video about the well investigations:
Pierre-Yves Mahe and Jean-Louis Marignier, with a few years interval, went to the Harry Ransom Center in Austin (Texas ). Each one held in his hands the oldest photography in history, “Le point de vue de la fenêtre“, “view from the window“, shot in 1827 by Nicephore Niépce.
Both were deeply moved, and tried to follow Niépce’s traces and rediscovered the emotion of the man who made the first photograph.
Pierre-Yves Mahe and Jean-Louis Marignier start archeological diggings in the old Niépce’s laboratory – workshop.
To restore the room back to the conditions known by Niépce,different labs analyzed the covering of walls and floors. They confirmed Marignier’s theory, that supposed that the window from which “view from the window “ was shot, had been positioned sideway by 70cms from todays’ window.
Lifting up the present floor boards,they found the actual floor on which Niépce used to walk,and also the exact position of the former window.
Video about the shifted window:
Niépce’s house reconstitution on a computer:
A video on the Restoration of the house
Spéos Paris Photographic Institute presents a 11-minute film on the Nicéphore Niépce House. In 2000, this film premiered at the open-air roman theater at the “Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie (RIP)” in Arles; it was nominated in 2001 at the International Scientific Film Festival in Orsay, as well as in 2002 at the 7th research film festival in Nancy. It was also shown in 2003 at the international congress dedicated to Nicéphore Niépce, “At First Light”, organized by the Getty Research Institute and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center in Austin, Texas.