Today a camera is a standard fixture on an electronic device, be it a mobile or a laptop. There was a time, when only royalty or the very, very rich could get a photograph taken. There was also a time, when the very idea of capturing an image and having a permanent form of it, was just a fantasy. In this article, learn more about the art of picture capture with an extensive look at the history of photography.
A Blast to the Past of Photography
✏ Behind any invention or creation, is an idea. The idea of a camera started in the 5th and 4th centuries BC. The pinhole camera was thought of as a possible invention by Chinese philosopher Mo Di and in Greece, 2 great mathematicians Aristotle and Euclid wrote about the concept of such a camera.
✏ It was Alhazen, a prominent Arab inventor and scientist, who in 1021 AD, worked upon the concept and created a physical model as well a description for the production of such a device. He improved upon the design, with the realization that the smaller the hole, the sharper the image.
✏ The pinhole camera in turn, led to the creation of the camera obscura, which is a significant step in the history of photography. This invention captured its surroundings as an image and projected it onto a screen. The device was created by Alhazen. It was used as an aid for drawing and sketching.
✏ While the physical idea and device was invented, various chemical discoveries were taking place, that would aid in the creation of the camera known today. Silver chloride and silver nitrate, two key ingredients in exposing images, were discovered. In 1694, Wilhelm Homberg described the photochemical effect, where the color of certain chemicals changes due to exposure to light. This was also backed up by Johann Heinrich Schultz's research in 1724.
✏ The above chemical properties and the hidden idea behind the camera obscura helped French inventor, Nicéphore Niépce realize the concept of capturing images and preserving them. He began his fiddling and experiments in the early 1820's. His first attempt in 1822 was successful in rendering an image but it would not remain on paper. In 1826, he achieved a breakthrough. Capturing an image and this time preserving it, using paper that would darken on exposure to light, Niépce had taken the first permanent photograph using a camera obsucra. Unfortunately it took 8 hours to expose!
✏ Niépce refused to give up. He started working with Louis Daguerre in 1829 and this time used Schulze's principle of a chalk and silver mixture, which would expose faster. Niépce died in 1833 but his work was carried on by Daguerre. He discovered 2 missing factors: using photographic plates would reduce exposure time and salt would help solidify the image on paper. Finally in 1837, the Daguerreotype was invented. It had an exposure time of 7 minutes, which meant no moving objects would be captured. The first photograph ever was of a Paris street off Daguerre's window, where a lone man waits for his shoes to be shined.
✏ The Daguerreotype inspired even more inventors to try their hand at this craft. Another photographic invention, very similar to the Daguerreotype, was the camera made by Hercules Florence. He created this device in 1834 and has referred to this process of image capture as photographie in his notes. But due to his obscurity, he was never given any credit for his invention. Another inventor, William Fox Talbot invented the Calotype camera and procedure in 1839, where negative pictures were produced.
✏ The work and findings of John Herschel kept contributing to the ongoing research in this field. He is credited with creating the cyanotype print, where the image has a bluish tint, exposing the object in white. This type is known today as a blueprint. He is also credited, with first using the term "photography" and also the terms, "negative" and "positive".
✏ Another major step in photography history came with the findings of Frederick Scott Archer. He created the wet plate collodion procedure in 1851, which became the foremost method used in photographs during the 1850s till the late 1860s. His discovery led to shorter exposure times of just 2-3 seconds and as a result, there was a massive decrease in the price of taking a photograph. What was once a very rich man's fancy had become a once-in-a-while item for the middle class.
✏ The next step was from Richard Leach Maddox in 1871. He used gelatin and silver bromide as the base for his photographic plate, which cut down on the cost of plate production and made photographic plates, an easily producible commodity. This step of Maddox's is the dry plate process. 1878 saw the event of capturing a moving object in a picture. This was carried out by Eadweard Muybride, who captured 12 pictures of a moving horse. Such an important event was also an early step in cinematography.
✏ The biggest and perhaps the best break in the long and ever changing history of photography came with the creation of film in 1884. This was done by George Eastman in 1884 and in 1888, he unveiled the first camera to the world. It was called a Kodak camera. Now the camera was officially a piece of equipment, which could be mass produced and used to capture images permanently.
From then on, all efforts and steps in the field of photography concentrated on improving the existing camera model. From a room with a hole in it to a device of varying sizes and specifications, the camera has truly come a long way. Such an invention is a true testament to the spirit of man's need to exceed and excel.