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Thursday, 3 May 2012

The History and Progression of Photography - Part 1

Suzie is driving home from work, she realizes that the sun is setting so she takes out her camera to get the perfect shot...being an avid nature lover she just cannot resist taking pictures of God’s creation. Everyone loves beautiful pictures and even if we tried we could not avoid seeing pictures because they are all around us, in books, on the television, in the stores, on billboards etc. Pictures also help us to relive memories: I am sure that a nostalgic feeling is present when one looks back at old pictures in albums or yearbooks. Everything around us has the potential to be a photograph, as Ansel Adams stated some years ago “you don’t take a photograph, you make it.”  The simplest of things such as an ant or a piece of wood, can be made into a world-class photograph based on how it is taken and for what purpose it is taken. 

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Dictionary.com defines photography as “the process or art of producing images of objects on sensitized surfaces by the chemical action of light or of other forms of radiant energy.” Photographers are satisfied when their pictures are beautiful, intriguing, inspiring, and thought-provoking. Today, with the advent of digital cameras that have a variety of features and impeccable quality to get that perfect photograph, anyone can become a professional photographer with the right tools.  It is often said that “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but in recent times pictures have been worth thousands or even millions of dollars, due to the fact that photography has become a very glamorous career. But where did it all begin and whose idea was it that an image could be brought to life through the lens of the camera?

The word "photography" is derived from the Greek words photos ("light") and graphein ("to draw"), the word was first used by the scientist Sir John F.W. Herschel in 1839. The history of photography dates back to approximately 1816 when French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce first developed the process of taking pictures. There had been much experimentation in the realm of image-making at the time, but Niépce was the first person to make practical use of camera and film. He photographed natural objects and produced colour prints with a camera obscura (an optical device that projects an image of its surroundings on a screen). Unfortunately, his images would last only a short time because the photograph required eight hours of light exposure to create and after appearing would soon fade away. Niépce’s success, however, attracted the attention of countryman Louise Daguerre, who joined with him to perfect the process. Niépce died before the 1839 introduction of the daguerreotype, a process of recording images on polished metal plates, usually copper, covered with a thin layer of silver iodide emulsion. In the same year as Daguerre’s first public display of the daguerreotype, British inventor William Henry Fox Talbot introduced a paper film process. This process was more important to the development of photography than the metal film system, but the daguerreotype received widespread attention and acclaim and made the public enthusiastic about photography.

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In 1841, Talbot invented a process called the calotype which used translucent paper, what we now call the negative. He created this process by sensitizing paper to light with a silver salt solution. He then exposed the paper to light. The background became black, and the subject was rendered in gradations of grey. This was a negative image, and from the paper negative, Talbot made contact prints, reversing the light and shadows to create a detailed picture. In addition, Talbot’s film was much more sensitive than Daguerre’s metal plate, allowing for exposure times of only a few seconds as opposed to the daguerreotype’s 30 minutes. In 1851, an English sculptor Frederick Scoff Archer decided to further develop Talbot’s creation by inventing the wet plate negative system. This creation produced a more stable and detailed negative because a viscous solution of a coated glass with light-sensitive silver salts was used in the invention process. 

Flexible Film roll had its birth in 1889 by George Eastman who invented film with a base that was flexible, unbreakable, and could be rolled. Emulsions coated on a cellulose nitrate film base, such as Eastman's, made the mass-produced box camera a reality. Colour films were invented in the early 1940’s, which made colour photography possible, the films used the modern technology of dye-coupled colours in which a chemical process connects the three dye layers together that created an apparent colour image. Instant colour film, used in a special camera which yielded a unique finished colour print only a minute or two after the exposure, was introduced by Polaroid in 1963. These inventions paved the way for the type of photography we enjoy and utilize to our advantage today.

To be Cont'd

Lafaine Wiggan