Photography Unit 11
How old is photography?  The first camera was described by Moti (China) as early as 400 B.C.   Aristotle mentioned the camera in 330 B.C.   Artists of the Renaissance were very familiar with the camera and even put it to use.  So why don't we have photographs of people from throughout history?

The camera is simply a box with a hole in it.  ("Camera oscura" is Italian for "dark room.")  Renaissance artists used a camera oscura to project an image that was traced.  What the camera lacked for all of those years was an acceptable way to record the image.

1836 Nicephore Niepce (nec say for nee eps) used a small rectangular plate of polished pewter coated with dark asphalt varnish.  Following an 8-hour exposure the plate was washed in a solvent of turpentine and oil of lavender.

1839 Louis Daguerre - invented a system which used a silver-coated copper sheet developed by mercury vapors. (Daguerre is generally regarded as the "father" of photography.)  The resulting image had brilliant clarity with minute detail and withstood inspection with a magnifying glass.  These photographs were known as daguerreotypes or "tin-types."

There were disadvantages:
1) long exposures
2) image reversed (backwards)
3) only one copy
4) only one size

The system was obsolete within about a decade, although it was used for many years because of its outstanding quality.

Three weeks after Daguerre - Englishman William Henry Fox Talbot produced a permanent image on paper instead of copper plate (calotype). He Started experimenting with photography on his honeymoon in Italy. Multiple copies could be made from a paper negative (lower quality).  This method was also soon obsolete

By 1847 there were about 2,000 cameras and more than 1/2 million photographic plates in Paris.

In 1851 the Englishman Frederick Scott Archer invented collodion (glass plates coated with light-sensitive chemicals).  This produced sharper prints than with calotypes.   Shorter exposures were required with this wet-plate process.   Exposure had to be completed within about 15 minutes of coating the glass with the emulsion, though, and the plates had to be developed within about. 15 minutes of exposure.

By 1853 there were over 10,000 American daguerreotypists producing about 3 million pictures.

In 1856 the University of London added photography to the curriculum.

It was soon apparent that a photographer could do anything a painter could - only faster. Photographs could be made less expensively and more accurately.

Some painters used photos to make preliminary studies. Some used them to make extra money.
Some took alarm

For more about photography and photographers:

Legacy of Light - Cleveland Museum of Art
Helios - Photography Online (NMAA)
American Photographs: The First Century (NMAA)
Art of the American Daguerreotype  (NMAA)
History of Photography timeline

QUESTIONBUTTON.GIF (236 bytes) sample quiz for Unit 11

Quiz for non-frame browsers

ARTHOME.gif (2047 bytes)

Mathew Brady
Alexander Gardner
Timothy O'Sullivan
William Henry Jackson
Edward S. Curtis
Alfred Stieglitz
Edward Steichen
Paul Strand
Edward Weston
Dorothea Lange
Yousuf Karsh
Philippe Halsman
Irving Penn
Alfred Eisenstaedt
Steve Crouch
Ansel Adams