History of Photography

Photography” is composed from the Greek words photos (”light”) and graphein (”to draw”). Scientist Sir John F.W. Herschel was the first one who used this term and it was in 1839. Photography means a method of recording images by the action of light on a sensitive material.

Pinhole Camera (aka the Camera Obscura)
Photography history begins from Pinhole cameras. There are different opinions on who was the first inventor of pinhole. The first mention of the principles behind the pinhole camera, a precursor to the camera obscura, belongs to Mo-Ti (470 BCE to 390 BCE), a Chinese philosopher. Alhazen (Ibn Al-Haytham), a great authority on optics in the Middle Ages who lived around 1000AD, has natered the pinhole camera further. He was able to explain why the images were upside down. Around 1600, Della Porta reinvented the pinhole camera. Apparently he was the first European to publish any information on the pinhole camera and is sometimes incorrectly credited with its invention. Johannes Kepler was the first person to coin the phrase Camera Obscura in 1604, and in 1609, Kepler further suggested the use of a lens to improve the image projected by a Camera Obscura.

The First Photograph
On a summer day in 1827, Joseph Nicephore Niepce made the first photographic image with a camera obscura. Joseph Nicephore Niepce’s heliographs or sun prints as they were called were the prototype for the modern photograph, by letting light draw the picture.

Niepce placed an engraving onto a metal plate coated in bitumen, and then exposed it to light. The shadowy areas of the engraving blocked light, but the whiter areas permitted light to react with the chemicals on the plate. When Niepce placed the metal plate in a solvent, gradually an image, until then invisible, appeared. However, Niepce’s photograph required eight hours of light exposure to create and after appearing would soon fade away.

In 10 years Louis Daguerre was able to reduce the exposure time to 30 minutes. It was the first practical use of photography and he named this method: the daguerreotype. Daguerre’s process ‘fixed’ the images onto a sheet of silver-plated copper. By 1850 the daguerreotype became popular in Europe and US.

Negative to Postive Process
Fox Talbot is known in History of Photography as an inventor of the three primary elements of photography: developing, fixing, and printing. Although simply exposing photographic paper to the light produced an image, it required extremely long exposure times. By accident, he discovered that there was an image after a very short exposure. Although he could not see it, he found he could chemically develop it into a useful negative. The image on this negative was then fixed with a chemical solution. This removed the light-sensitive silver and enabled the picture to be viewed in bright light. With the negative image, Fox Talbot realised he could repeat the process of printing from the negative.

Wet Plate Negatives
In 1851, Frederick Scoff Archer, an English sculptor, invented the wet plate negative. Using a viscous solution of collodion, he coated glass with light-sensitive silver salts. Because it was glass and not paper, this wet plate created a more stable and detailed negative. It was not convinient to use this method in the field.

Dry Plate Negatives & Hand-held Cameras
In 1879, the dry plate was invented, a glass negative plate with a dried gelatin emulsion. Dry plates could be stored for a period of time. Photographers no longer needed portable darkrooms and could now hire technicians to develop their photographs. Dry processes absorbed light quickly so rapidly that the hand-held camera was now possible.

Flexible Roll Film
In 1884 Eastman patented the first film in roll form to prove practicable; in 1888 he perfected the Kodak camera, the first camera designed specifically for roll film.  In 1892 he established the Eastman Kodak Company, at Rochester, New York, one of the first firms to mass-produce standardized photography equipment.

Color Photographs
In the early 1940s, commercially viable color films were introduced to the market. These films used the modern technology of dye-coupled colors in which a chemical process connects the three dye layers together to create an apparent color image. At first color prints were not stable because organic dyes were used to make the color image. The image would literally disappear from the film or paper base as the dyes deteriorate. Kodachrome, dating to the first third of the 20th century, was the first color film to produce prints that could last half a century.

Film Speed (ISO)
An arbitrary number placed on film that tells how much light is needed to expose the film to the correct density. Generally, the lower the ISO number, the finer grained and slower a film. ISO means International Standards Organization. The slower the film, the more light is needed to expose it.

How cameras developed

By definition a camera is a lightproof object, with a lens, that captures incoming light and directs the light and resulting image towards film (optical camera) or the imaging device (digital camera). All camera technology is based on the law of optics first discovered by Aristotle.

After years of pinhole cameras use, George Eastman invented the Kodak camera. For $22.00, an amateur could purchase a camera with enough film for 100 shots. After use, it was sent back to the company, which then processed the film. The ad slogan read, “You press the button, we do the rest.” A year later, the delicate paper film was changed to a plastic base, so that photographers could do their own processing.

Andrew Heafitz applied for and received his first U.S. patent for the camera shutter.

As early as 1905, Oskar Barnack had the idea of reducing the format of film negatives and then enlarging the photographs after they had been exposed. As development manager at Leica, he was able to put his theory into practice. He took an instrument for taking exposure samples for cinema film and turned it into the world’s first 35 mm camera: the ‘Ur-Leica’.

Polaroid or Instant Photos
Photography history won’t be complete without Polaroid photography. It was invented by Edwin Herbert Land. Land was the American inventor and physicist whose one-step process for developing and printing photos created instant photography. The first Polaroid camera was sold to the public in November, 1948.

Disposable Camera
Fuji introduced the disposable camera in 1986. We call them disposables but the people who make these cameras want you to know that they’re committed to recycling the parts, a message they’ve attempted to convey by calling their products “single-use cameras.”

Digital Camera
In 1984, Canon demonstrated first digital electronic still camera.

The first modern photoflash bulb or flashbulb was invented by Austrian, Paul Vierkotter. Vierkotter used magnesium-coated wire in an evacuated glass globe. Magnesium-coated wire was soon replaced by aluminum foil in oxygen. On September 23, 1930, the first commercially available photoflash bulb was patented by German, Johannes Ostermeier. These flashbulbs were named the Vacublitz. General Electric made a flashbulb called the Sashalite.


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