Photography is the art of recording images by means of light falling on a sensitive photographic film or an image sensor. It can be pursued as a hobby or as a profession. The term photography was used for the first time by John Herschel in 1839. Photography is derived from the Greek words, photos meaning light, and graphien meaning to draw or to chart. Hence, the essential meaning of photography is 'drawing with light' or 'charting light'. Though modern photography originated in the 19th century, the idea had been in existence since ancient times. The credit for inventing modern photography goes to many scientists and other personalities who contributed a lot in the field of optics and image reproduction.
It is obvious that the modern form of photography began with the invention of the modern camera, somewhere in the 19th century. However, the conception of the pinhole camera can be traced back to the 4th and 5th century BCE, and can be attributed to well-known philosophers, Mo Ti, Aristotle, and Euclid. The ideas were put into practice in the 11th century by an Iraqi scientist, who invented the first camera obscura. The working of the camera obscura was such that, a tent with a pinhole was used to project inverted images on another surface in a darkened room (placed outside the tent). Hence, the room acted as a pinhole camera. However, only projection of images could be achieved in this device, without actually recording them.
The portable camera obscura, along with additional lenses, was developed in the 17th century. Permanent images were invented by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, a French physicist, in 1825. Prior to this, he made the first paper negative in 1816. Niépce used a camera obscura for recording image on a polished pewter plate coated with bitumen (a petroleum derivative). This was the first image that retained for a long period. Later on, the experiment of Niépce, in partnership with Louis Daguerre, a French painter, led to the development of daguerreotype plates for creating permanent images.
The basic principle used in daguerreotype was that, an image taken on a silver-coated copper plate was exposed twice―first in iodine vapor, followed by light exposure. Daguerre also discovered the phenomena of creating latent image by further exposing the image to mercury fumes. By 1839, he announced the invention of daguerreotypes to the public. They were popular till the late 1850s, when the emulsion plates were invented.
In late 1839, William Henry Fox Talbot, an English scientist, who developed the process of generating positive images from paper negatives, invented the glass negative. While doing so, he adopted the idea of fixing pictures from John Herschel, an astronomer who, in 1819, had mentioned the use of hyposulphite of soda (now known as sodium thiosulfate) as a suitable dissolving substance for silver salts. By 1841, Fox Talbot introduced the calotype or talbotype by using silver iodide as a coating substance for paper. After refining Fox Talbot's process, George Eastman developed the technology for chemical films, which is used till today. He founded the Eastman Kodak Company, and is honored as the inventor of the photographic film.
This was but a brief writeup about the invention and development of the art of photography. Niépce, who created the first permanent image, and George Eastman are revered as the vital pioneers of photography.