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Alfred-Nicolas Normand was born in Paris in 1822, son of the architect Luis-Eleonor Normand. His first technical and artistic studies were at the Ecole Royale et Special de Dessin and when he was 20 years old he was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1846 he won the Grand Prix de Rome and therefore had the opportunity to go to the Villa Medici in Rome.
In 1847 he arrived in Rome and he became "pensionnaire" of the Academy of France where he stayed until 1852. He mainly worked on restoration projects of the Roman monuments, the Arch of Titus, the Arch of Settimio Severo, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. He also worked on the restoration of the House of the Faun in Pompeii.
Soon after his arrival in Rome, and perhaps facilitated of being of the same nationality as the Flachérons and Eugène Constant, he established friendships with the artists and photographers that met at the Caffé Greco. On April 24th 1851 he meet Maxime du Camp and Flaubert who were returning from their trip in the Middle East and on this occasion he wrote to his family about his interest in the “daguerreotype on paper”, and tells of his photographic progress especially that done with a friend - presumably Eugène Constant.
In this period Normand also assiduously frequents the architect Charles Garnier who is also a "pensionnaire" at the Villa Medici and involves him in some group photographs. In the 1898 Madame Charles Garnier gave to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris a number of photographs of the group.
Normand took numerous images of the Roman Forum, principal views and panoramic photo-collages of Rome. These photographs were geometric and linear in style and are different to those of his friends at the Caffé Greco who lent more towards painting for their stylistic inspiration. His negatives, performed with the wet process were then waxed, were always of the same format, around 177 x 228mm or slightly smaller, and not manipulated - the resulting prints are therefore more grainy and less detailed and this is also due to the mediocre lens he used. The lens was probably a simple achromatic and this may account for the loss of fire in his images. Having said this his photographs are still very beautiful and they seem to have been taken more for personal aesthetic study rather than the commercial market. Normand, not always, but often signed his prints, numbered them and wrote captions of the location.
In the autumn of 1851, perhaps stimulated by the stories of Du Camp and Flaubert, he departed an a trip that took him to Naples, Palermo, Malta, Greece (Mountain Athos and Athens) and finally to Constantinople and enroute he took many calotypes. He returned to Paris and from 1854 took an appointment as an inspector of public works and received the assignment to photograph the Pompeian Building on rue Montaigne that was destroyed in 1890. In 1861 he became General Inspector of penitentiary buildings.
He took up photography again in 1885 and during his inspections and trips took around 3,500 glass negatives and also reprinted the calotypes he took during his stay in Rome and of his earlier travels around the Mediterranean.
He died in Paris in 1909. His nephew Doctor Alfred Cayla, who worked with Normand during his later photographic period, in 1975 sold 130 calotypes to the photographic archive of the historical monuments service in Paris.
[Kindly contributed by Marco C. Antonetto, Jan 3, 2008]