Through the Viewfinder

Photography has become the medium used by professional and amateur alike to capture memorable moments. Since its infancy nearly two hundred years ago, new techniques and technologies have taken photographs from pieces of paper using light sensitive materials to create the image to taking and storing digital images on phones or computers. 

Heliography and the First Photograph Heliography is the Greek word meaning “sun drawing”. Joseph Niepce, a French inventor, created the very first photography. He took the first landscape photograph, the view outside his window, using a light sensitive solution of bitumen of Judea and lavender oil to expose it to the light. Niepce’s goal was to create plates to print them onto paper to create a lithograph.
Daguerreotype Invented by Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre and Joseph Niepce in 1829 when looking for a way to reduce exposure time during the photographic process, the daguerreotype was the first popular type of photograph. After Niepce’s death, Daguerre discovered that by using iodized silver on a plate and mercury vapour to expose it reduced the exposure time from 8 hours to 30 minutes. In 1839 Daguerre sold the copyright for the Daguerreotype to the French government and it became one of the first of many photographic techniques. In the 1840's there were many studios specializing in the daguerreotype popping up around the world taking images of people and their families.
Calotype In 1835 William Henry Fox Talbot created a technique to produce a photo on paper. He soaked the paper in a solution of sodium chloride and silver nitrate creating silver chloride. This technique created what we know today as a negative. After many attempts, Talbot discovered using sodium thiosulfate fixed the image to the paper. In the 1850’s the calotype was a popular technique used to create images of architectural monuments.
Glass Plate Negative In 1851 a new technique was added to the world of photography, the wet collodion process creating the glass plate negative. It was created by Fredrick Scott Archer and was much faster than any other method. The only drawback was that the plate needed to be sensitized right before it was exposed and while the coating was wet. By mixing nitrocellulose in alcohol and ether and allowing the solvents to evaporate it was discovered that a plastic like film remained over the plate.
Dry Plate Negative In 1878 Richard Leach Maddox, an English physician, created the dry plate process. He used silver bromide in a gelatin emulsion; the factories produced dry-plates coated with gelatin containing silver salts. It was the first of modern photographic techniques and was much faster than the wet plate collodion method. It was a cheap way to create negatives and produced instantaneous snapshots. The Kodak Company founded by George Eastman created the amateur photographer using small portable cameras that anyone could use to create memories while on vacation.
Photography of Movement Prior to the mainstream introduction of the dry plate negative, Eadweard Muybridge took 12 to 24 cameras to take pictures of a horse galloping to show that the horse did not leave the ground. This was a breakthrough not only for photography but for the creation of motion pictures by showing artists and scientists how movements by humans and animals are created.
Stereoscopic Stereoscopic was a very popular method of viewing monuments around the world in the mid 1850’s. By putting two images side by side on a piece of cardboard and placing it on a holder in front of the lenses, the illusion of a three-dimensional image was created.
Autochrome Plates By the 1870’s many people wanted to see the colours of the landscapes instead of black and white images. At first photographers hired artists to hand paint the prints but the 1880’s saw the introduction of transparent hand-coloured prints to create the coloured photograph. These led to invention of the coloured photographs we enjoy today.
Carte-de-viste In the 1850’s carte-de-visite or calling cards were created by printing photographs and mounting them on pieces of card. Calling cards became popular because it was the first time people could send photographs of themselves to family and families could have images of their loved ones.
Film The idea of flexible film dates back to the calotype and the idea of creating stripes on wet plate collodion glass plates. The Eastman Dry Plate Company in the mid-1880’s introduced large scale film. They produced stripes of film on paper coated with a layer of gelatin that went into special holders. To remove the paper from the gelatin they would soak it in the water. In 1889 the transparent film was created. The use of film made it easier for amateur photographers to take pictures of their family and made it easier for photographers to produce a large number of photographs.
Colour Photograph In 1907 the Autochrome process was introduced by Auguste and Louis Lumiere. At this time colour screen was used with a thin film of panchromatic emulsion to create the colours of the photograph. In 1935 Kodak created a film that would create a coloured negative but it did not become popular until the 1960’s when even amateur photographers could use the film.
Digital Photography We now live in the era of digital photography. Our cameras are with us constantly and we can easily upload photos to the Internet to show our families and others what is going on in our lives. The first digital image was taken by the Mariner 4 on a fly by Mars in 1965. It was not until 10 years later that the Eastman Kodak company produced the first true digital camera. Over the next few decades, technology greatly advanced as and more and more digital cameras came onto the market for use by professional and amateur photographers alike. It was not however until the 21st century when this type of photography became very popular. Digital photography opened the world of possibilities for anyone who was interested in capturing that moment in the moment forever.
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