Category: Photography

History of Photography

April 25, 2014



Photography as a new way of capturing images appeared many centuries ago with the discovery of the principles of the camera obscura and related findings that the perception of some substances is visibly altered by exposure to light.

It is difficult to believe but the discovery of camera obscura can be attributed to Chinese philosopher Mo Ti and Greek mathematicians Aristotle and Euclid, who described a pinhole camera in the 5th and 4th Centuries B.C. In the 6th century a Byzantine mathematician Anthemius of Tralles used a type of camera obscura in his experiments.Camera Obscura

But it was only at the dawn of the 19th century when Thomas Wedgwood made the first properly documented attempt. He tried to capture an image using a device like camera obscura together with white paper treated with silver nitrate. What he actually succeeded in capturing were the shadows of objects placed on the surface in direct sunlight.

Photographer Nicephore Niepce

 Later, in 1816, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, a French inventor and a pioneer in the field of photography developed heliography and in 1826 he produced the world’s oldest surviving photograph “View from the Window at Le Gras”,

First Photograph View FromThe Windowat le Gras

showing parts of the buildings and surrounding countryside of his estate. . He succeeded in actually taking the first shot which took him several days, which were required for the exposure of his camera to finally produce a quite rough first image. He used paper coated with silver chloride. His camera was much smaller than that of Wedgewood, but his photographs looked more like negatives. He struggled to stop photographs from darkening after being exposed to light for viewing.

Later in the century, Louis Daguerre developed the daguerreotype process, which only took minutes of exposure to produce clear and finely detailed images. This is why 1839 is officially accepted as the year where photography made its first step. In the same year, Sir John Hershel introduced a new word “ Photography” which was based on the Greek (“phos” meaning “light” and “Graphe” meaning “Drawing, writing”,  as “ Drawing with light”. )

Photograph of Boulevard du temple a daguerreotype made by louis daguerre 1838

Since then, photo cameras were getting better and better, requiring less and less time for exposure until it was reduced to just a fraction of a second. Photography became a new medium, more economical and convenient.

 1884 was a remarkable year for photographic development as George Eastman and Rochester from New York developed grey gel on paper, replacing photographic plates with film.

“You press the button we do the rest” was the market slogan of Eastman’s Kodak camera. Since July 1888 anyone could take a photograph and leave the complexity of processing to professionals. In 1901 photography became available for the mass market with the introduction of the Kodak Brownie. Later, in 1936 a new era in colour photography began with the introduction of Kodachrome film available for 16mm home movies and 35 mm slides.

Vintage photograph of kittens1908

The next big step in photography was taken in the 1990s with introduction of computer based electronic digital cameras. Photographers moved away from messing with film and chemicals to develop it, cumbersome equipment to print photographs and so on. New digital technology left behind film-based photochemical methods, bringing more vivid colours, sharper details to the image. New digital photo cameras became more affordable to the larger population, giving people chance to capture any moment of their lives quickly, efficiently and with excellent quality.