In 1816, French artists Joseph Niépce and his brother Clyde Niépce successfully produced the first positive image from a negative. After this discovery many others soon followed, improving the technique.  Thus large format photography became more accessible by the mid 1800’s.

Joseph Niépce, a great enthusiast for the art of lithography, started to improve the photographic process by using tin plate. He used pewter plates coated with bitumen of Judea, which is varnish that hardened when exposed to light. Niépce exposed the plates to light through an oiled etching on top of a piece of paper. Afterwards the plates were washed in a solvent to remove hardened residue, leaving a positive image. Niépce decided to place these plates in a camera and expose them, thus creating the first permanent images.

Large format film allows the contemporary photographer to achieve from a large negative the greatest amount of clarity and a minimum grain. This also allows for much bigger enlargements.[1] Essaydi’s final stage of production is the large format print produced in a darkroom. She uses this technique to render an image much larger in scale than many of the Orientalist works she responds to, works of nineteenth-century Europe and America commissioned and used by playboys.[2] She then goes to great lengths of taping the film edges to produce Polaroid-like edges.  Polaroid is also a large format technique that is no longer in traditional production. Utilizing film and maintaining the black frame conveys a pureness in Essaydi’s images that is distinctive.

[1] Barbara London and John Upton, Photography, 2010.

[2] Maureen G. Shanahan,, “A Conversation with Lalla Essaydi,” ed. Sarah T. Brooks, The Photography of Lalla Essaydi. Critiquing and Contextualizing Orientalism (Broadway, VA: Branner Printing) 2014, 6-22.