Jamie C.


Framing the History of Photography

Just how far have we come?

A New Development

These days, taking a picture is such a simple task that we take the ability to do so for granted. We use photography to note our life experiences, to remember loved ones, and we even create booming careers out of it. But capturing a moment in time wasn't always that easy- in fact, it took centuries of technological development for our cameras and photos to reach the advancements we see today. To understand how far we've come, let's do a quick peek into the history of photography. 

Light of a New Idea

The bare minimum of photography is embedded in a relationship between light and images. The first time this was put into use was with a camera obscura (which is actually Latin for "dark chamber". This contraption was first recorded in the 5th Century BC by a Chinese philosopher named Mozi. And it's quite literally as the name implies- the camera obscura is a box that has a small hole for light to enter. The lighten collides with the surface across and produces a flipped image. While this was the first step into what we know as modern photography, the image was only being projected and was no permanent. One of the greater challenges would be to create a process in which the image could be etched onto a physical surface forever. 


The Issue of Permanency

Many years would pass by the time Nicéphore Niépce, a French pioneer, made another great photographic discovery. In 1822, Niépce, who we consider to be the father of photography, started testing different chemicals to achieve a permanent image. He utilized materials including paper treated with silver salts, iron oxide, and manganese black oxide. Niépce was able to create images, but due to overexposure and long exposure times, the lack of permanency remained an issue.  

This led into the development of the Daguerreotypes. Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre carried on Niépce's vision after he passed away. His method included using a reflective, iodine-treated copper plate and salt and gold chlorine that was utilized to engrain the image into the plate. he battled the problems Niépce had faced with exposure by using a lightproof container and developing the image in hot mercury. The result of Daguerreotypes were photos that were of much better quality at a significantly smaller amount of time.


Bright Future Ahead

From Daguerreotypes, photography began to flourish and slowly advance. This included feats from James Clerk Maxwell, who incorporated color into photography with the use of different colored filters and varying exposure levels, which he combined together to create a final colorized image. Leland Stanford, the founder of Stanford University, and photographer Eadward Muybridge also played a part as they developed the first piece of motion photography with 12 camera and a tripwire. 

Cameras themselves began to evolve as well. Personal cameras became more popular after the release of the Kodak #1, which gained popularity due to its preloaded film and user-friendly interface. Instant and polaroid disposable cameras, and digital cameras further normalized the use of personal and portable cameras. Professional cameras would begin to circulate the photography scene, causing photography and videography to become prominent career paths and hobbies. And finally, perhaps one of the greatest inventions to generalize photography was the camera phone, which would eventually become our iPhones and Androids of today. And we all know how easy snapping a quick picture is with them!

The world of photography is relatively new and maintains its reputation as a unique form of art. It is also an easy, everyday way of noting life's memories, small moments, and just general record keeping. But it's important to remember that while we've taken a leap from the original camera obscura, there is still a lot of potential for photography and photographers alike to grow.