Henri Le Secq, a painter and antiquarian, collected Old Master prints and medieval ironwork. As the son of a politician, Le Secq became an expert on his native Paris and the self-appointed guardian of its historic architectural treasures as the city faced urbanization. Unsurprisingly, his photographs of the city's architecture are the work for which he is best known. In 1851 he became a founder of the Société héliographique, the first photographic organization in the world. In 1852 the Commission des Monuments Historiques chose him to document Chartres Cathedral as part of the missions héliographiques.
Le Secq learned photography from his friend and colleague Gustave Le Gray. His earliest photographs were figure studies that he made as preparatory studies for paintings. Always believing that photography was a tool for the painter, Le Secq later photographed landscapes as artists' studies. Throughout his career Le Secq only made paper negatives. He gave up photography after 1856, when paper negatives went out of fashion, but continued to paint and collect art.