Photography is the art of recording images of objects in a particular time and place. It can be used to document events, record people’s memories, or document the human condition. The history of photography is a complex interplay of artistic traditions and scientific discoveries. Historically, photographers followed the same principles as painters. They interpreted the subject to their liking and waited for the right moment to capture the image.
In the early 19th century, a number of scientists were experimenting with ways to make photographs more efficient. Their methods included the use of different metal plate technologies. However, they never managed to produce permanent silhouettes. Instead, moving objects were rendered blurry and indistinct. These methods had harsh tonal scales.
In 1840, William Henry Fox Talbot had developed a process that allowed him to record images on paper. He was able to create a photographic process by bathing paper in a salt solution. After the paper was soaked, it became light sensitive.
When it was discovered, a number of skeptics wondered whether photography was a forgery. Others were not interested in the medium. Some suggested that it was simply a method of drawing. Still others suggested that it was a ludicrous invention.
Another scientist, Joseph Nicephore Niepce, was a French inventor. He spent several years developing a method to capture light. Eventually, he developed a way to reproduce engravings in sunlight. This process was later referred to as heliography.
Daguerre, a fellow inventor, worked on a method of recording photographs on metal plates. His process was sixty to eighty times faster than Niepce’s heliography. However, it was expensive and messy. A photograph could take a minute or more to create. Since Daguerre’s invention, his method has become a popular and exclusive art form.
The next step in the development of photography was a device that could be held by the photographer. While the first camera, the camera obscura, could only accommodate the photographer’s head, it was difficult to carry it around. Thus, photographers would often carry a telephoto lens that was modified to fit their eyes.
An additional technological innovation came in the form of a wet-plate negative. In 1851, Frederick Scoff Archer invented a technique that allowed a glass plate to be coated with light-sensitive silver salts. Silver chloride formed in the paper fibers when the plate was soaked in a salt solution.
As the Industrial Revolution swept through Europe, a number of photographers sought to create a camera that could be carried around easily. These photographers also began adapting lenses manufactured by optical manufacturers. But the technology was not yet ready for commercial exploitation.
Another major technological advancement was the creation of digital cameras. Digital cameras replaced analog cameras. Initially, they were too expensive for the general public. Then, increased competition led to lower prices. Today, digital cameras are available in most places, making them an increasingly popular mode of photography.
Another important contributor to the history of photography was Felix Nadar. As a journalist, Nadar had the opportunity to interview a number of photographers. Many of these interviews revealed his admiration of photo artists. Later, he became a photographer himself. Nadar was fascinated by the way light can be manipulated to create images.