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date: 26 January 2020

Wey, Francislocked

(b Besançon, 1812; d Paris, 1882).
  • Geoffrey Belknap


(b Besançon, 1812; d Paris, 1882).

French photography critic and writer. After preparing for a life in engineering and business at the Ecole des Arts et Manufactures in Paris, Wey soon abandoned his studies to enter the literary world. With patronage from Charles Nodier (1783–1844), a luminary of the Parisian literary community, Wey obtained a position as an archivist, which helped to supplement his writing career. He is known to the art historians today primarily for his writings on photography published as a series of articles in the journal La Lumière throughout 1851. In this journal, Wey contributed commentaries on photographic portraiture; the art of making lithographic prints from photographs; and the relative value of different photographic methods (where he argued for the calotype process over the daguerreotype). Wey also advocated strongly for the use of photography as a tool to record, reproduce, and transport paintings, sculptures, and other three-dimensional art objects; these reproductions, he argued, would allow the study and appreciation of art objects to extend beyond the home and museum. Unlike some of his contemporaries at the British Museum, such as Roger Fenton, who argued for a similar use of the camera as recording device, Wey himself never practised photography. He nevertheless weighed in on the debate over authorial priority in photography, which was framed by the ongoing legal battle in England over William Henry Fox Talbot’s claim to the invention of the positive–negative photographic process. These writings by Wey were influenced in part by his relationship with the French Realist painter Gustave Courbet, who shared Wey’s critical engagement with the supposed verisimilitude of photography....

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