History Of Photography Essay, Research Paper
Photography has been around for over 160 years. During that time period, it has become
the most common form of image making. As ‘the’ means of visual communication, it is
indispensable. As an art form, it offers opportunities, which differ greatly from painting
and other picture-making techniques that rely on manual and visual skills.
The world first learned how to make photographs in 1839. In that year two basic
processes were made public: the Daguerreotype and the Calotype. Both came into being
to satisfy the needs for a way to make pictures easily, quickly and accurately, without
artistic training and skill.
Some of the early “cameras” were actually rooms in which one wall contained a
lens. Danielo Earbaro, an Italian living in 1568, tells us to hold a piece of white paper
about a foot away from the lens. “There on the paper,” he says, “you will see the whole
view as it really is, with its distances, its colon and shadow and motion, the clouds, the
water twinkling, the birds flying. By holding the paper steady you can trace the whole
perspective with a pen, shade it and delicately color it from nature.”
It was awkward to transport such big cameras, and by 1800 a more portable
camera was in general use. Constructed like a box with a lens at one end and a
translucent screen of ground glass at the other which caught the image so it could be seen
from the outside, they were almost identical to view cameras in use today. Their purpose
was the same: to form an image, which could be recorded. Photography is nothing more
than a record of the camera image made by chemical means with an accuracy and speed
beyond the skill of any human hand.
The first attempt to capture the image off the camera chemically was made by
Tom Wedgwood (1711-1805), son of the famous English potter. “White paper, or white
leather,” he said in 1802, “moistened with solution of nitrate of silver, undergoes no
change when kept in a dark place; but on being exposed to the daylight, it speedily
changes color, and after passing through different shades of gray and brown, becomes at
length nearly black. When the shadow of any figure is thrown upon the prepared surface,
the part concealed by it remains white and the other parts speedily become dark….”
So, if he put a flat object, such as a coin, key, or leaf, on the surface of his treated
paper and left the paper in the sun until it turned black, he would have a white silhouette
of the object on a dark ground, but as he looked at the finished pictures, or “profiles” as
he called them, the white silhouettes began to darken until they disappeared, and the
paper became uniformly dark.
In France, an inventor by the name of Nicephore Niepce (1765-1833) was
unknowingly repeating the work of Wedgwood. By 1816 he made a picture with a
camera, but was not satisfied. It was exposed for eight hours, and the result was the
background of the picture was black, and the objects were white.