The J. Paul Getty Museum

[Construction Worker, Paris]

Object Details


[Construction Worker, Paris]


Hippolyte Bayard (French, 1801 - 1887)




Paris, France (Place Depicted)


about 1845–1847


Salted paper print from a Calotype negative

Object Number:



16.6 × 11.7 cm (6 9/16 × 4 5/8 in.)

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Object Description

A construction worker stands below eye-level amidst the geometric structure of a two-story building. This photographic view of daily life in the 1840s was quite unusual, demonstrating Hippolyte Bayard's early interest in what later came to be considered a social-documentary approach.

Aside from his human subject, Bayard seemed drawn to the negative shapes of the broken glass pane of a shuttered window and those of the barred one below. These graphical forms support the photograph's gridlike composition, which seems curiously at odds with its gentle framing. The oval mask may have been an attempt to soften the subject's starkness, following a fine-art approach adopted by photographers in the 1800s.

Bayard made many views of Paris in the early years following photography's invention, favoring the British-invented calotype process over France's daguerreotype process. He created this photograph several years before working on a series of architectural studies for the Commission des Monuments Historiques' Mission Héliographique, a French government-sponsored project to record historic buildings around the city. It also predates Eugène Atget's atmospheric, Parisian street scenes made some fifty years later.

Experimental Photography: Discovery and Invention (January 17 to April 2, 1989)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), January 17 to April 2, 1989
Photographers of Genius (March 16 to July 25, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 16 to July 25, 2004
At the Window: The Photographer's View (October 1, 2013 to January 5, 2014)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), October 1, 2013 to January 5, 2014