Brief History of Photography
first photograph was an image recorded on a pewter plate
by a Frenchman, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, in
1826. It showed the view from an upper story window in his
home. Great strides in photography would not take place
until the next decades, when Louis Daguerre created images
on silver-plated copper, coated with silver iodide, which
developed with mercury.
daguerreotypes, the images seem to float above the highly
first, there was no agreement about what to call the new
process. Among the terms bandied about were No daugerreotype,
crystalotype, talbototype, colotype, crastalograph, panotype,
hyalograth, ambrotype, and hyalotype. Ultimately, a new
word won out - photography, which means writing with light.
was a cumbersome and time consuming process. The biggest
problem was that it was impossible to duplicate daguerreotypes.
But by the end of the 1850s, the daugerreotype had been
replaced by a new method of photography known as the wet
plate process. A British photographer named Frederick S.
Archer discovered that a glass plate coated with a mixture
of silver salts and an emulsion made of collodion could
record an image. The image had to be developed immediately,
before the emulsion dried. But it was now possible for the
first time to make unlimited prints from a negative. It
was also possible for photographers to take pictures outside
of a studio.
key figure in early American photography was Matthew Brady,
who was just 22 years old when he took up photography in
1844. At first, many of his photographs were portraits of
famous Americans, such as Senator Daniel Webster. These
photographs tended to portray individuals in solemn poses
that reflected the republican emphasis on dignity and virtue
and made no effort to show the background or setting.
gained lasting fame for his Civil War photographs, which have
created lasting images of the conflict in terms of rotting
corpses and raved cities. Yet however lifelike these pictures
seem, we must realize that they were not accurate depictions
of wartime realities. Brady carefully arranged the scenes,
and even moved corpses to ensure that they appeared where
he wanted them.
War photograph by Matthew Brady - click to open in a new
1885, American inventor George Eastman introduces film made on
a paper base instead of glass, wound in a roll, eliminating the
need for glass plates. Three years later, he introduced the lightweight,
inexpensive Kodak camera, using film wound on rollers. He also
began to develop films in his own processing plants. No longer
did amateur photographers to process their own pictures.
professional responded to the growth of amateur photography
by attempting to transform the photograph into a work of art.
One of the most famous American photographers, Alfred Stieglitz,
experimented with camera angles, close ups, and focus to created
photographs that resemble impressionist paintings.