Inventions of Photography 09/25/2012
There was not a single invention.
The exact date is something that is hard to pin point.
The word invention itself demonstrates a singular moment.
Photography flourished through an optical phenomenon.
People credit the invention of photography to Aguere, but infact, Aguere’s invention was
something he worked on with another person, something he built upon centuries of thought, and
an invention that went on simultaneously with a different invention in mind.
There were two competing British inventions:
What is Photography? (ANALOG)
a lighttight box
lenses (or a pin hole)
light sensitive chemicals
5 century BC, philosopher Me Ti wrote about how light through a pinhole will create camera
Aristotle made two important observations on the effects of light. Recognized that partially
eclipsed sun made for a sharper image, discovered this through little holes in little leaves in trees.
Smaller aperture sharper the image.
Small hole in a darkened room will create an image from the sun. th
13 century british scholar roger bacon
Renaissance and western Europe, noted that use of small holes were used to focus light. Optical
effects of light and guiding light could create different effects within photography.
Photography is made of the effects of light and chemical means of how to create them, it was in
the period before the 19 century that thinking about these effects came very much to light. “The
active pre history of photography its first invention occurred really in the 18 century.” A period
that immediately preceided the industrial revolution. Europe was changing to a more urban
environment, a movement called the “enlightenment” material progress, research and innovation.
A period where we see the beginings of industrial products. A realization that this tool would
become a great one for a sense of thinking.
Growth of middle class and an audience for what would soon be photographic images.
Precursors From the History of Art
A lot of tools developed at this time that are a basis of thinking.
Find a means to make an image, that seemed to be neutral and authoritative and made by the rays
of light themselves.
Early Precursors to Photography
Means for Mechanically Drawing:
Pantograph: developed in 17 century, simple device of wrap screen placed in front of the artist,
drawing a portrait also behind the graph screen with the same ratio so that the artist can render
the drawing exactly as it’s seen through the graph. Deemed helpful for shortening and getting
proportions. Leonardo Di Vinci used this method. There was a lot of thinking of people wanting
to render with perfection of knowledge of geometry and devices to aid them.
Physionotrace: developed at the end of the 18 century. Adapted form the pantograph but to
make etches. What would happen is the artist would view the sitter through th eye piece, and
move the eye piece along the profile of the subject. There was a stylus attached to the eye piece
so it would trace the shape that the eye directed movement of. Not very practical, but a means of
wanting to trace appearance that seemed like a pure optical device. Silhouette: Subject would sit on the site of a paper, light source on one side so the shadow would
be cast onto the screen and the artist just traces the outline. This device gave a sense that it was a
true trace of the person, rather than being rendered and modified by the artist.
Silhouettes and physionotraces were affordable to the public. Seen as mechanical devices, and
were drawing inffact on beliefs at the time that the shape of the head told you something about
the character, and having likeness about something of the subject would show the audience
similiarities and differences between people.
Camera Obscura (latin, dark room):
All analog cameras are essentially camera obscuras. A device that was invented in the 16 th
century in Europe, was a room sized device that just requires an airtight space with one pin hole
on the side that projects an image upside down.
This device is based on certain principles.
light tight box with aperture (and often lenses)
light rays enter opening (aperture) and throw an inverted image of object in front of camera
obscura onto the back of the box.
A mirror placed at a 45% angle reverses the image and reflects it onto a clear surface
Operator simply traces the image appearing on the clear surface glass onto thin, translucent
Camera Lucida (latin lighted room):
An artist would have a small prism attached to a stick, clamped to a drawing board.
2 sides of prism are “silvered” and reflect what is in front.
Operator adjusts device so that image in front reflects onto board (and paper), then they trace the
*Like the artists use of camera obscura, required hand renderings but the image itself was
manipulated through light effects, and lenses.
WM. Henry Fox Talbot Camera Lucida Drawing (1833)
Depicted what he saw, and he felt better accuracy using camera lucida.
Early precursors to Photography Pantograph, physionotraces, and silhouette means of mechanically drawing. There was a real
interest in creating an image that is not the product of imagination but a rendering of a real
person or thing.
There were a lot of scientists who tried to create a chemical means of fixing an image in the back
of a camera obscura. There was a great deal of competition in scientists to find a way of fixing
the obscured image. There was a historical context. The time was very bright, and a moment
when the invention fell on a very deceptive public. A society interested in scientific discovery.
The Daugerreotype: collab between Daguerre and Niepce
Joseph Nicephone Niepce (17651833) worked within printing processes. Creating an image
through photosensitive materials. 1816 is the earliest he was working on these processes. The
images he made were indistinct, required lengthy exposure times; to make them he used
specialized lenses to generate an image and focus light. Was not aware of contemporary
advances that would have helped his photography.
*View from the Window at Gras c.1826, (heliograph) depicts a window from outside his home,
this is a unique image.
He started collaborating with Daguerre in 1829, Daguerre (17871851) was much more of a
flamboyant show man. Daguerre was best known for his dioramas in France. Huge large scale
drawings, many made with the aid in his place of a camera obscura so it looked like they were
depicting real 3 dimensional space. Because of his work with the camera obscuras for his
dioramas, became interested in fixing the problem with this image of correcting the reflection.
*Still Life (interior of a cabinet of Curiosities) 1837
1839 started using hyposoda (salt solution) to arrest development, and that became the basis of
his infention for works such as Still Life.
Daguerreotype: “a unique process”
*something placed in the camera to make the image permanent, instead of having a mirror to
have a temporary image to trace.
copper plate, coated with a thin highly polished layer of silver
suspended over iodine (this renders the silver light sensitive)
placed in the back of a camera obscura
exposure (between 5 and 60 minutes – usually 2040 minutes in the first years of the invention. Developed by suspending the plate over a heated dish of mercury (creates silver mercury)
“fixed” by being floated in solution of hyposulfite of soda (invented by john Herschel).
*Daguerre, Blvd, du Temple, 1838, Paris
Each exposure = one image CAN NOT DUPLICATE THE DUEGERRO PROCESS.
Daguerreo types became popular in France, but also migrated its fame to America in the 1850s.
Portraiture was the most common medium, they were also used for other things showing eclipses
of the sun, etc. This is more of an object than an image.
*Hippolyte Bayard, SelfPortrait as a Drowned Man, 1840.
Direct paper positive process:
Rather than putting the metal plate in the back of the camera, he put paper and created a direct
positive. Very little interest in france in what he was doing even though it was an invention that
was closer towards a modern take to photography.
John Herschel, Untitled, 1842.
Cyanotype is a process that uses a piece of paper that is sensitized in a solution of iron salts, and
other compounds. And that prepared paper is then contact printed, or placed in the sun with an
image against it.
Wm. Henry Fox Talbot (18001977)
Came up with photogrenic drawing, which was a photo
Soaked in silver salts, then an object is placed on top with bright sunlight, then put in a salt bath,
then creates an image. Botanical specimen was most popular.
From that discovery invented the Calotype.
Calotype: negative positive process. (30 minute exposure) paper has latent image then fixed in
water and salt exposed to light sensitive paper placed on and exposed to sun to create multiple.
Was a distinctive process, more practical then a degerotype. This could make multiple prints.
First negative positive process. Portraits 09/2