A History of Photography (Mostly)

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Kaz-D's avatar
Art History Photography Month has begun and where better to start than with the History of Photography! I appreciate not everything is included, but here are some key main events and features, images and happenings that have impacted Photography across the years. If you don't want to read it all, scroll to the bottom for my tl;dr handy summary ;)


This is said to be where it all began with Alhazen inventing the first pinhole camera - known as Camera Obscura. Heard the phrase before? Now you know where it originates from! Aristotle observed and noted in around 330BC the optic laws that made pinhole cameras possible and questioned why the Sun could make a circular image when it shined through a square hole.



The First Panorama opens - the forerunner of the movie house invented by Robert Barker.


Joseph Nicephore Niepce  (don't even try to pronounce it) made the first Photographic Image with none other than Camera Obscura. But here's the catch...the image required eight hours of light exposure and faded later. Damn. Before Joseph did this really awesome and amazing thing, people used the camera obscura only for viewing or drawing and not for taking permanent images. His prints were known as Heliographs - or rather more quirky, sun prints.


Hot on the heels of Niepce was Louis Daguerre. He invented the first practical process of Photography after experimenting with ways to capture an image. It still took him about another twelve years before he was able to reduce exposure time to less than thirty minutes and keep an image from disappearing after it was taken - pesky things aren't they. So in 1839, after Niepce was out of the picture because he had conveniently died (No don't start the conspiracy theory, it was all above board), Daguerre developed a much more convenient form of Photography and named it after himself (he so vain) calling it The Daguerreotype.

Daguerre worked with Niepce's son (so it was all friendly of course) and by 1850 there were over seventy studios created by them in New York City alone. Amazing!

Source: Louis Daguerre Circa 1838/39


The Paper-Negative Process of sensitizing paper to light with a silver salt solution and then exposing it to light, rendering the subject with graduations of grey, was developed and eventually completed by Talbot. This was named  a 'Calotype' after the Greek for 'Beautiful Picture.'


This was a landmark year with the first Advertisment with a Photography made and showcased in Philadelphia.


Frederick Scoff Archer invented the wet plate negative and this meant that Photography advanced a good deal more quickly  when sensitized materials could be coated on plate glass. But it meant carrying a darkroom around with you so you could develop, quite literally, in the field. Bit of a bugger really.


Tintypes were developed in 1856 and patented by Hamilton Smith. It was a medium that heralded the birth of Photography. A sheet of iron was used to provide a base for light sensitive material, yielding a positive image. 


The first Panoramic camera was patented and called - The Sutton


This year saw the arrival of dry plate negatives. It was only twenty three years since wet plate negatives had been developed! What took them so long?! This was a glass plate with a dried gelatin emulsion. Who said Jelly was only good for eating?! This meant that portable darkrooms were not essential to developing..thank goodness.


George Eastman invented Flexible Roll Film which did exactly what it said on the tin (if they were invented in those days). It was flexible, unbreakable and could be rolled and meant that the mass produced box camera became a stunning reality. So basically, he patented KODAK roll film. Kodak! This is Kodak's year!


This saw the advancement of COLOUR films. These used the modern technology of dye coupled colours in which a chemical process connects the three dye layers together to create a color image...did you get any of that? Probably not, but what's so important about these years is that COLOUR was coming to a camera near you.


One giant leap for mankind...This year heralded the first ever Photograph of Earth - taken from the moon!


Point and shoot is born with Konica introducing the first ever point and shoot autofocus camera, something many of us can't even imagine living without these days!


The industry giants are moving in now with Sony introducing and demonstrating the first ever consumer camcorder.


Not to be outdone, four years later Canon demonstrates the first digital electronic still camera!



DeviantART was born and with it a brand new Photography Community was created. DeviantART along with other websites such as Flickr and Instagram have created a social media type outlet for Photographers to use to express themselves.

So if you found that all quite overwhelming, I've done an 'instant message' type status translation...

(^Kaz-D): Niepce took the first ever photograph
(^Kaz-D): and everybody was all liek yayyyy
(^Kaz-D): amazingggggg
(^Kaz-D): then
(^Kaz-D): it took eight hours of exposure time
(^Kaz-D): but everybody still thought yayyyy
(^Kaz-D): amazingggggg
(^Kaz-D): :P
(^Kaz-D): then
(^Kaz-D): ....
(^Kaz-D): it faded
(^Kaz-D): :D

© 2013 - 2024 Kaz-D
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AKrychek's avatar
Nice. Fix the Canon link.