image

Photography, as also other very common things and practices in our nowadays life, has a very long and complicated inventing history. As with every invention, the ideas behind something go back for generations, centuries and are not the brainchild of one specific inventor. In case of photography, the history goes back for thousands of years. The name “photography” comes from Greek, meaning “drawing with light”. Before any technical inventions, there were several ancient scientists from all over the planet, who developed the theoretical knowledge that allowed the clear ideas to surface from the common knowledge pool of the human kind.

The first practical attempt was the The Camera Obscura, which is considered as the father of all cameras and digital cameras. First one to describe Camera Obscura was a chinese scientist named Mozi more than 2400 years ago. Actually the invention popped up in several places at the same time simultaneously, both in China and in the Arabic countries. It remained a mystic phenomena for quite a long time that puzzled many known scientists to work on it. For example Aristoteles and Leonardo da Vinci, to name a few who might be more known to the English speaking world.

It took centuries before that theory was really put into practise to actually make and preserve “drawings”. According to the Hockney–Falco thesis, one possible reason why the renaissance painters suddenly were able to paint so realistically, had not so much to do with their impressively improved skills, but rather with the use of Camera Obscura, the Pin Hole. The painter built a box, big enough for a person, and went to work on the painting that magically appeared on the white paper. The only thing the painter had to do, was to repaint what he already saw on the paper.

Before preserving technology arrived between the 13th and the 16th century, many attempts were made to make photographs. Many of those experiments created images, but they did not know how to preserve them afterwards. It is not clear when modern photography was actually born. The Venetian scientist Daniele Barbaro 1568 wrote a book about how to use a lens with the Camera Obscura, to focus the light better, which was quite groundbreaking. Using a lens made the image clearer and the projection distance could be changed. This was an important step closer to the camera we know today. In the 17th century there were many inventions about photography, as scientists experimented with chemicals. Then it was discovered that silver is sensitive to light. The 18th century was also phenomenal because of optical developments, several lenses and mirrors were used together to make the projection as good as possible. Different glasses went into use and the early 19th century was the time for first modern photographic lens designs.

The first photo that still exists is made by a middle-class frenchman turned inventor and photography pioneer, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, in the year 1826 or 1827. The image was made of his own estate garden at Le Gras, in the Burgundy region of France. The camera exposure lasted for eight hours. In 2003. “Life” magazine chose “View from the Window at Le Gras “ as one of “100 Photographs that changed the World”. He also made advanced experiments with the french artist Jacques Louis Mandé Daguerre.

First photo cameras were just wooden boxes that had a lens. It was not easy to take a photograph. The apparatus was heavy and a photographer had to hide himself under a black carment. After Niépces death Daguerre continued on the research. He came up with new technology Daguerreotype that made the image perfectly visible. 19th of August 1839, the date he presented his technique and idea to the French academic world, is officially the date when photography was invented. He received the highest award and was named an Honorary Academian by the French government.

Diaguerrotype was a great invention and it got to be used broadly and went quickly into fashion. Even today many people enjoy working with that invention, as there are workshops that try to explain this ancient hands-on technique. It is quite a different experience to try it yourself, instead of just clicking a button and a machine does all the magic. The photos that are made this way, look magical, as if a proof that humans can overpower nature by preserving the time and space in their back pocket or wallet.

The first color photograph was done in 1891 by Gabriel Lippmann. He invented a process for making natural-color, with no pigments or dyes of any kind, photographs based on the optical phenomenon of the interference of light waves. This invention was considered phenomenal and he earned the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1908, but today his invention is not in use as it is considered impractical. Other color experiments have been carried out by several other inventors and companies. The first commercially successful color technology, Autochrome, was introduced by the Lumiére brothers in 1907. In 1981, Sony unveiled the first semi-digital consumer camera, eliminating the need for film. Now digital photography rules the world, as more than 99 % of photographs are taken with digital cameras and the trend is growing with the number of smartphones.

Search photographers