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A Brief History of Photography

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Morgan Peterson

on 7 September 2014

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Transcript of A Brief History of Photography

A Brief History of Photography
Why should we care about this???
So... let's start from the beginning....
The word "photography" comes from 2 Greek words
Photos = "light"
Graphien = "to draw"
So the word photography means "drawing with light"... which is essentially what your camera is doing.
In 1839, Sir John Herschel was the first person to use the term "photography" in public.
Photography is evolving at an incredible rate
and by understanding where it came from
and how it got to where it is...
hopefully we can better predict...
maybe even control... where it is going.
Even still, for the birth of photography to happen.... a few key things would need to be discovered.
The Camera Obscura
which was revolutionary!!
It started with Aristotle in 330 BC as merely a vision... then in 1490 became a sketch in Leonardo da Vinci's notebook... finally becoming a reality in 1558 during the Renaissance when painters of the time began using it to draw and paint landscapes.
Joseph Nicephore Niepce
Would do just that!! In Paris in 1826, Niepce would make the world's first permanent photograph!
"View from the Window at Le Gras, France" took 8 hours to expose and became the first photographic image... one that can still be viewed today.
Thomas Wedgewood
But Even before the word photography was ever used...we would first have to discover how to project an image
This would begin with....
started trying to solve this puzzle by making what he called "sun pictures" which involved placing leaves on leather that he had treated with silver salts... but the image was not permanent... it would keep getting darker and darker until it just faded into the darkness.
So for the world's first photograph to be created... we still needed to figure out how to "fix" an image so that it would be permanent.
As incredible as this was... the celebration did not last too long given the poor quality of the image... advancements were in desperate need.... So Niepce partned with...
Louis Daguerre
After Niepce shared all of his research with Daguerre.. he unfortunately passed away. Two years later, Daguerre found that the chemical, silver iodide, was much more sensitive to light than Niepce's compound and was able to make a much sharper image on a copper plate. This discovery in 1835 would credit Daguerre with making the first photograph... even though it was made 9 years earlier by Niepce. DRAMA!!!
Now Daguerre still had not figured out how to "fix" the image so that it would not fade... but in 1839... he finally figured it out and was able to announce his "Daguerreotype" to the world!! This is when photography as we know it began. Portrait studios started popping up all over Europe and for the first time... the middle class was able to get a family portrait made.
Daguerreotypes produced a direct positive image.. meaning it was not made with a negative and was therefore, one of a kind. They were made by coating copper plates with silver that had been made sensitive to light with iodine and placed in a camera obscura. After exposure, the plates were developed over hot mercury and bathed in a salt fixing solution to make the image permanent.
There was only one problem... why
did everyone look so unhappy???

Well... daguerreotypes took about 10-15
minutes to expose... and with a long exposure
a moving subject will look very blurry... so to keep
the details sharp... models would have to sit with their
heads being held in a metal clamp... and who can hold a
smile for 15 minutes???
What other major discovery still needed to be made?
Remember that up until this point... photographs were
positives... so no multiples could be made.
William Henry Fox Talbot
would change that with his "Calotype"
process in 1839. He had created paper negatives
which could make paper positives and for the
first time.... you could make multiples copies of an image.
So taking a closer look at
Talbot's trees.. what could still

The image quality... meaning the details could
be sharper and easier to make out.

Frederick Scott Archer
Would tackle that in 1851 by creating what he called
the wet-collodion process. This involved coating
glass plates with a light sensitive solution and using
the camera obscura to expose them to light. Images were
much sharper and took far less time to expose... we're talking seconds versus the several minutes that was necessary before.
How would this change photography in terms of subject matter?
But.. there is always a draw back...
So now that photographers could easily shoot
portraits and landscapes... what would they want to
take pictures of next?
Eadweard Muybridge's
photographic experiments would lead to
the birth of "motion" pictures. He would set up multiple
cameras and now that a photograph could be exposed
in a fraction of a second... he was able to photograph a moving subject. Let's take a closer look at his horses... given that this is the first time we were able to freeze motion... what do you think
his photographs proved?
Well... now we can take pictures of people, the landscape,
and action... what needed to be invented next?
That's right...
In 1861... first color photo
was taken. Describe the colors in this photo?
But it was not until 1935 that color photos as we
know them today were made possible with the invention of
Going back a little bit in time.... another invention revolutionized photography.... any guesses?
George Eastman
started Kodak and in 1900 introduced the "Brownie"
camera, making it possible for the general public to take photographs for the first time!! The brownie cost $1.00 and it was the first point and shoot camera. How do you think this changed the course of photography?
In the 1920s, flash bulbs made it possible to photograph in low light.
Now that everyone could take photos... images came
flooding in from all over the world. Photojournalism was born
and the evolution of photography took off....
Next up... the Instant Photograph!! The first
polaroid picture was taken in 1948.
Sprocket film was introduced in 1914 and the infamous Leica film camera was introduced in 1924 by Oscar Barnack.
By 1975, the digital age was just starting to be imagined.
Steve Sasson of Kodak created the digital camera prototype.
It weighed 8 lbs and recorded 0.01 megapixel images to a cassette tape that had to be viewed on a tV.
In 1991, Kodak brought the first Digital
SLR to the market. It was priced at $13,000 and was
1.3 megapixels. In 1992, Kodak developed the CD. Today we have 10 megapixel cameras available for less than $200... and in 2011 Hasselblad introduced a 200 megapixel camera!!
In 1997, the first digital camera for consumers was marketed. So digital photography as we know it today really started only about 15 years ago.
Now the technology is truly exploding... advancements are being made everyday. This video describes where we may be headed.
What other advancements do you see happening in the future of photography?
In terms of the history of photography... what was photography
mostly used for? Do you think it was accepted as a fine art form?
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