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When was photography Invented?
The invention of photography revolutionized the world with its ability to immediately capture a scene in an instant while creating an indelible and lasting record of people, places and events.
The first permanent photograph that was ever captured was taken by the French inventor Joseph Nicophore Niepce at his estate in Burgundy, France, in 1827. The photograph was taken using a heliographic technique that used the light of the sun to expose the image.
The image is a photo of Niepce’s courtyard at his home and studio. The photo took almost 8 hours to be ready and was an amazing leap forward for the inventor. The photograph is fairly blurred and hard to make out clearly because as the sun moved across the courtyard it affected the final image. However, the photograph was permanent and the first documented example of this new field.
Niepce immediately recognized the importance of his invention and traveled to England to showcase his achievement. He met with Francis Bauer who worked at the Royal Botanical Gardens where he specialized in botanical drawings. Bauer used his influence to show the first photograph to his friends and colleagues however despite his best efforts, Niepce was denied an audience at the Royal Society.
In 1905, following the first photographs final exhibition it vanished from the history books and was not rediscovered again until the mid 1950’s, when it was bought by the husband and wife photo-historians Alison and Helmut Gernshiem for their private collection.
The First Photograph : Niepce, 1827.
The photo above by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce is generally considered to be the first photograph ever.
Niepce’s Camera – Heliographic Photography.
Niepce used a tiny camera that he had designed and built himself to capture his iconic first successful image. The camera used a piece of paper inside it which was coated in a thin layer of Bitumen of Judea which would harden in the brightest areas of the image when it was exposed to the sunlight. Once the Bitumen had set Niepce dissolved away the unhardened Bitumen leaving a very basic two tone photograph!
The Oldest Known use of the Camera Obscura technique was in the 4th or 5th Century BCE!
Before Niepce invented his camera the only known technique of capturing an photo image, albeit temporarily, was to use a technique known as the ‘Camera Obscura’. This makes use of an optical phenomenon that can be used as an aid to drawing; as was common among Renaissance artists in Europe who used mirrors to project their desired image onto a canvas helping them create photo-realistic paintings in perfect proportions.
A camera obscura is created by projected light through a small hole into a dark room. This will create an inverted image on the wall in the darkened room. The earliest known description of this technique was documented by a Chinese philosopher called Mozi between 470-390 BCE! However, it would be more than 2,000 years before a photographic image could be created and retained in a permanent form.
The Kodak Instant Camera.
As interest in the field of photography grew throughout the vigorously inventive Victorian-era many more attempts were made to improve on Niepce’s achievements. Although there were gradual improvements during the 19th Century it wasn’t until George Eastman invented and started producing photographic films for his cameras that photography was truly revolutionized and started to evolve into what we know it as now. In the early days he used paper film however in 1888/9 he upgraded this to a celluloid film and so began the modern era of photography!
The Kodak Instant Camera brought photography to the masses for the first time.
George Eastman’s earliest model of camera was called the ‘Kodak’ which first went on sale in 1888. The camera was bought with a preloaded film that would allow the user to take up to 100 exposures, after which the entire camera had to be sent back to Eastman’s factory where the film would be processed and sent back with a new film reloaded in it ready to use! The Kodak was a low cost box camera with a small lens that was fixed focus and came with only one shutter speed.
However, due to its affordable price, the Kodak was extremely successful and over the next 10 years Eastman developed more cameras, including folding cameras as well as better box cameras for his growing client base. At the height of Eastman’s success he produced his mass market cameras even further when he created the ‘Brownie’ camera in 1900. This was a very cheap box camera that was designed with the ‘snapshot’ in mind! The model was so successful it was still on sale, with a few modifications, right up until the beginning of the 1960’s.
Photography has come a long way since the early experiments using a Camera Obscura.
Photography is such a ubiquitous part of the modern world that we think nothing of snapping a selfie, documenting a view and even the meal on our plates in a fancy restaurant!
One of the most major shifts during the history of photography was pioneered by the Kodak company with George Eastman at its helm, taking photography from the preserve of the very wealthy and bringing it to the masses in an affordable, and relatively easy to use camera that was light and easy to transport unlike its forerunners.
As photography went to evolve into the digital space this trend continued, even allowing video recording on a small phone that can fit in your pocket! The incredible leaps that have been made since the early days have changed the way we see that world and opened up so many new possibilities with filters, post production editing and inexpensive software tools, that it would be safe to predict that photography’s history is by no means over! Whether the future of photography may become dominated by holographic images or if it maintains its current 2D essence, it’s an exciting time to be a photographer!