For sale: the world's first press photographs

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The Independent Online

Historic pictures of the Paris riots in 1848, which became the first photographic news story to appear in the press, are to be sold at auction next month.

The images, expected to fetch up to £200,000, were taken by a pioneer French photographer known only as Thibault, who climbed to a rooftop in Paris on successive days in June 1848 to record the scenes on the barricaded street below.

A week later they were used in the weekly newspaper L'Illustration, Journal Universal with a report of the insurrection and a city under siege. The daguerreotypes from the year of revolution in Europe will make news themselves as a star lot at Sotheby's photo sale in London on 9 May. The images – being sold by a French nobleman to benefit the World Animal Handicap Foundation – are being offered with a copy of the newspaper and wood block engravings from the pictures.

Juliet Hacking, a photographic expert at Sotheby's, said: "These are unique images. You can't run off copies from a daguerreotype and there are no negatives. This was the first time photos were used as the basis for a news story."

Barricades were erected in the narrow streets of Paris in June 1848 and, as in 1789, the French capital again became the battleground for the clash between the old order and the new. The fledgling art of photography documented the bloody episodes that followed. In the four days from 23 to 26 June, troops led by General Louis Cavaignac killed more than 3,000 insurgents in days that became known as the Journees de Juin 1848.

On 25 June the Rue St Maur, Popincourt, was deserted. Thibault took a picture of the deserted cobbled street, with cartwheels and other wreckage piled on to the bricks to form barricades. Next day, he snapped the street filled with General Christophe Lamoriciere's troops and their murderous cannon.

So Thibault was the world's first press photographer.

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