Evolution of Photography - Important Events in Photography History

Photography is a method of producing images (in any form) by recording light or some other electromagnetic radiation. Word "photography" comes from the Greek φωτός (phōtos), meaning "light" and γραφή (graphé) which means "drawing" and has a meaning of "drawing with light".

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Photography History

History of photography begins when we noticed that a light that passes through a small hole behaves weird. A few thousand years later we found chemicals that darken when exposed to light and after that was all a matter of experimenting.

Photography Facts

There are at least as many types of photography as there are genres of art. Some are artistic, some are documental, some capture infinitely large objects while some take images of infinitely small. Learn some photography facts here.

Photography Inventors

Many photography pioneers were involved in converting light into a permanent image - from 19th century until today. Not all of them had an idea that worked but without them there would be no photography as we know it today.

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Brief History of Photography

Photography, when it first appeared in 19th century, used a few different technologies that existed for thousands of years. Chinese philosopher Mo Ti and Greek mathematicians Aristotle and Euclid knew about pinhole camera in the 5th century BC and Byzantine mathematician Anthemius of Tralles used a camera obscura in his experiments in 6th century. Pinhole camera is a box that has a pinhole aperture on one side and is completely dark inside. When light passes through a pinhole it projects an inverted image on a wall opposite of a pinhole. This is a simple camera and it has no lens. Some pinhole cameras can be found in nature (for instance in caves). Camera obscura works on a similar principle but it often has a lens, through which light passes, and a mirror which inverts and projects the image at the top of the box. It was used as a drawing aid. Albertus Magnus discovered silver nitrate in 13th century, while Georg Fabricius discovered silver chloride in 16th century. These chemicals are sensitive to light and will be used in photography. Daniele Barbaro invented a diaphragm in 1566 which will be used to control amount of light that enters the camera.

Problem with pinhole camera and camera obscura is that they don’t retain the image they create - they just project it. In 1800, Thomas Wedgwood tried to capture the image that camera obscura created by projecting it on paper or white leather treated with silver nitrate. This is the earliest known try in photography. He succeeded to record shadows of an object before the camera but they didn’t last long because he didn’t know how to “fix” the image and make it non-sensitive to light. Thomas soon died and there his experiments ended. The next try was by Nicéphore Niépce who in 1816 used paper coated with silver chloride to made photographs which were in negative. His photographs also didn’t last long. His is the oldest surviving photograph dating from 1827 or 1828 which had to be exposed for between 8 hours and couple of days. His partner Louis Daguerre refined the process (daguerreotype) and made the first photograph that had people on it and much shorter exposure time. He published his method on 19 August 1839 and gave it to the world for free. William Henry Fox Talbot improved fixing of the photographs and a calotype process which allowed for reproduction of photographs from one translucent negative image. By mid-1840s many inventors made their variants of glass negative. John Herschel was the first and other followed. They also experimented with different materials which gave different quality of image and needed different exposure times.

These first photographs were black and white (more precisely - grayscale) and many tried to bring colors to images. First color photograph was made in 1848 but it needed very long exposure and its color faded quickly in light. Next method was making of one picture through three colored filters: red, green and blue. These three images were black and white, and were projected through three filters (in red, green and blue again), one over another, onto a surface making a color image. This method was an idea of James Clerk Maxwell, Scottish physicist, and was used for the first time in 1861 by Thomas Sutton. When emulsions that are more sensitive to colors were invented (1880s), color photography became more popular. At first color photography was done on plates but film soon replaced plates because it allowed photograph to make more images in succession and was easier to use. Kodachrome film revolutionized photography in 1935 by introducing multilayer emulsion.

Today, most of cameras are digital which means that the light that enters them falls on sensors which turn frequency and strength of light into electrical impulses. These impulses can be saved and represented on displays and even printed. First digital camera appeared in 1957.

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