History of Photography

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Photo by Luxe Palmer

Photography has come a long way from what it used to be.

By Kaitlyn Ketchell, Reporter

The first camera was invented in France by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce during the 1830s. He was experimenting with a camera obscura (a primitive form of camera that was more a projector than anything else), bitumen, and a pewter plate when he discovered that upon exposing the bitumen-coated plate to light, a permanent image was recorded.

Niépce then went on to collaborate with Louis Daguerre and the two created what they called the “daguerreotype,” an early form of photograph made by coating a copper plate with silver and iodine and then exposing it to light. However, daguerreotypes were difficult to make, as they had to be exposed to light for up to 15 minutes in order to get a clear picture. Daguerreotypes were soon replaced in the 1850s by emulsion plates.

Emulsion plates, sometimes known as wet plates, were vastly more practical than daguerreotypes, as they were cheaper to make and only required two to three seconds of exposure. In addition to emulsion plates, many cameras began to have “bellows,” which were early forms of lenses that allowed for better focus.

Then, in the 1870s, Richard Maddox invented dry plates that could be easily made in large batches and stored rather than wet plates that were made whenever a photographer needed one. This allowed photographers to take more photographs more easily. Around the same time, cameras were getting smaller and more hand-held, and the first mechanical shutters were developed.

The first camera film was invented in the 1880s by George Eastman. He invented the first camera for the common person (up until that point, photography was considered to be something practiced only by professionals and the extremely wealthy), which was a hand-held box camera with a small lens that could hold a roll of 100 pictures. Once filled, the roll of film could then be sent to a factory to be developed and made into prints.

In the 1930s, photographers began to move away from posed photographs and toward photos of things as they happened. The practice took off during World War II when many photographers sought to capture the horrors of the war in order to give a taste of what was happening to the American people.

During the 1930s, most photographers preferred 35-millimeter cameras, but around the same time, the Polaroid company began developing a camera called the Model 95 that developed film inside the camera in under a minute. The Model 95 was a big success, and Polaroid cameras reached peak popularity in the 1960s.

In the 1950s, however, Japanese camera company Asahi introduced SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras, which remained many professional photographers’ camera of choice until the 1970s. In the late ’70s, “point and shoot” cameras became more popular, as the camera itself chose the right settings rather than the photographer. This made it easier than ever for casual photographers and photography hobbyists to capture good photos.

The first digital camera was invented in 1991 by Kodak (a company founded by George Eastman), and other companies followed suit, creating other digital cameras that ranged from expensive DSLRs (digital SLR) for professionals to cheap everyday cameras for the average person.