Images have been projected on surfaces for decades. The camera obscura and camera lucida were used as early as the 16th century by artists to trace scenes. In time, these early cameras did not fix an image; they only projected what passed onto a surface through an opening in the wall of a darkened space. The entire room was, in essence, transformed into a large pinhole camera. Indeed, the word camera obscura literally means ‘darkened room,’ and all modern cameras have been named after these darkened rooms.
The first photograph is known to be a picture created in 1826 on a polished pewter plate covered with a petroleum derivative named bitumen of Judea by the French inventor Nicéphore Niépce. It was created with a camera and required an exposure of eight hours in bright sunshine. This method turned out to be a dead end, however, and Niépce started experimenting with silver compounds based on a discovery by Johann Heinrich Schultz in 1724 that a silver and chalk mixture was black.
In a collaboration, Niépce, in Chalon-sur-Saône, and the artist Louis Daguerre, in Paris, refined the current silver process. In 1833, Niépce died of a stroke, leaving Daguerre with his notes. Daguerre made two pivotal contributions to the method, although he had no scientific experience.
He discovered that a latent image could be created and made visible by exposing the silver first to iodine vapour, before exposure to light, and then to mercury fumes after the photograph was taken. The picture could then be fixed by bathing the plate in a salt bath.
Daguerre revealed in 1839 that he had developed a method called the Daguerreotype, using silver on a copper plate. For Polaroids, a similar method is still used today. The French government purchased the patent and made it publicly accessible immediately. William Fox
Talbot had earlier discovered another way of repairing a silver process picture across the English Channel, but had kept it hidden. Talbot perfected his method after reading about Daguerre’s invention, so that it could be easy enough to take photos of individuals as Daguerre had done and he had developed the calotype process by 1840.
To create an intermediate negative image, he coated paper sheets with silver chloride. Unlike a daguerreotype, as most chemical films do today, a calotype negative could be used to replicate positive prints. This method was patented by Talbot, which greatly restricted its acceptance.
He spent the remainder of his life defending the patent in litigation before he completely gave up on photography. But George Eastman improved this method later on, and it is today the basic technology used by chemical film cameras. Hippolyte Bayard also invented a photography process, but postponed the announcement of it, and was therefore not known as its inventor.
The collodion method was invented by Frederick Scott Archer in the darkroom in 1851. It was the method that Lewis Carroll used.
In 1841, the technical procedure for making pictures on glass was invented by Slovenian Janez Puhar. On 17 July 1852, in Paris, the invention was recognized by the Académie Nationale Agricole, Manufacturière et Commerciale.
In responding to the demand for portraiture emerging from the middle classes during the Industrial Revolution, the Daguerreotype proved popular. This demand, which could not be met by oil painting in volume and cost, may well have been the push for photography’s growth.
Daguerreotypes, however, while stunning, were fragile and hard to reproduce. In 2006 dollars, a single photograph taken in a portrait studio would cost US$1000. Photographers also helped chemists to improve the process of cheaply producing several copies, which finally led them back to the method of Talbot. Ultimately, in the first 20 years, the new photographic process came about from a series of refinements and changes.
In 1884, to replace the photographic plate, George Eastman of Rochester, New York, produced dry gel on paper or film so that a photographer no longer wanted to cart boxes of plates and harmful chemicals around. The Kodak camera from Eastman went on the market in July 1888 with the slogan, “You press the button, we do the rest” Anyone could take a photograph now and leave others with the complicated parts of the process. In 1901, with the launch of Kodak Brownie, photography became open to the mass market.
As well as automatic focus and automatic exposure, color film has been normal since then. As digital cameras allow instant previews on LCD screens, digital image recording is becoming increasingly popular, and the resolution of top-of-the-range models has surpassed high-quality 35mm film, whereas lower-resolution models have become affordable. Since the invention of the 35mm film Leica camera in 1925, little has changed for the enthusiastic photographer who processes black and white film.