History of Photography

The word photography comes from two words in the Greek language, the word ‘photo’ which means ‘light’ and the word ‘graphein’ which means ‘to draw’ so together means ‘to draw with light.’ This is a very accurate term as the process it refers to is that of capturing an image onto a light sensitive material. The word ‘photography’ was first coined by Sir John Herschel in 1839, but the photography history dates much further back, and the first actual photograph was taken in 1826 by Joseph Niepce using a technique he called ‘heliography.’

Joseph Niepce may have taken the first photograph, but it was thanks to Louis Daguerre who had been experimenting with ways to permanently capture images since 1789. DaguerreLouis set painter for the Opera and a chemist. He was fascinated by the idea of being able to capture the beautiful scenes he saw when he witnessed the operas performed live on stage. He worked with Niepce and found that mixing silver with chalk made a solution that would darken when exposed to light. After Niepce died in 1833 Daguerre carried on and developed a better way of permanently fixing the image by immersing the photographic plate in salt. He called his technique ‘daguerreotype’ and sold the patent for it to government of francewhich made it public and made photography very popular.
The draw back of this technique was that there was no way of duplicating the images apart from taking two photographs at the same time with two cameras. Then around 1835 an inventor called William Henry Fox Talbot invented the Calotype. This technique involved paper sheets being covered with silver chloride to produce negatives from which duplicate prints could be made. However, Talbot patented this process which limited its popularity as people where not free to use it.

Process times at this stage were still very slow, and it was not until we entered the next era of photography in 1851 with the invention of the Collodion process that things would speed up. The Collodion process was invented by the English sculptor Frederick Scott Archer and involved using a glass wet plate rather than paper to capture a negative. This made for much more detailed photographs and the exposure time was only a fracture of the time it had taken before.

These advances opened the world of photography up to portraits rather than just architectural images however the wet plate method meant that photographers would need to carry a portable darkroom around to be able to develop the images before they dried. This was obviously not very convenient for taking pictures outside of a studio and lead the way for the invention in 1879 of the dry plate which meant that negatives could be stored and processed at a later date. The dry plate absorbed light much more quickly and meant that cameras could now be hand held and more like the cameras we know today.

In brief, this are some of the advances that have been in the world of photography.

It was around 1000AD, when Alhazen came up with the pinhole camera, also known as a camera obscura.

In 1872, Niepce Joseph photograph using a pinhole camera. Before this, people simply just used the pinhole camera for seeing or drawing. Joseph’s photographs were the starting point for the modern photographer by allowing light make the image. Neicpe’s photographs however, were not yet advanced enough as they requiredexposure to light for 8 hours to create. Soon after the image appeared, it would disappear almost straight away.

Louise Daguerre innovator practical photography went on to join with Neicpe in 1829 to develop his work.

In 1839, after many years oftesting, and the death of Joseph Neicpe; Daguerre developed a better and more proficient means of photography, and named it after himself ‘The Daguerreotype.’ This involved fixing the image on silver-plated sheet of copper, coating it in iodine, placing the plate in the camera and exposing it for some minutes. After it was exposed to the light, the plate was then bathed in a mix of silver chloride, creating an image that lasted.

Shortly after this Daguerre sold the ownership rights for the ‘Daguerreotype’ to the government of france.

Henry Talbot Fox, a mathematicianan, and English botanist invented the first negative, meaning multiple positive prints could be made. In 1841, he perfected the art of his invention and called it ‘The Calotype,’ the Greek meaning for ‘beautiful picture.’

In 1879, since the discovery of tintypes and wet plate negatives, dry plate negatives were developed. This was a glass negative sheet with gelatin emulsion, allowing the ability of being stored for a longer period of time. There wasn’t any need for portable dark rooms, and because the dry process quickly absorbed light it made possible the portable camera.

It was George Eastman in 1889, who invented the roll film which was unbreakable, flexible, and could be turned around.

written by: bdozen