History of Photography - A Hundred-Year Legacy

By Julie J. Spaulding

Long before the first forays into photography during the 19th century, intellectuals since the time of Ancient Greece have described the pinhole camera, the camera obscura and the photochemical effect, often unknowingly. According to some theorists, artists have used the camera obscura and camera lucida to aid them in their craft since the 1500s. However, the first 'permanent' photograph was not created until 1826 by the French inventor Nicéphore Niépce. This photograph, created on a pewter plate using a process taking 42 hours, was later accidentally destroyed. Later in 1826, Niépce created 'View from the Window at Le Gras', which survives to this day. When Niépce died in 1833, he left his notes to Louis Daguerre, who, in 1839, announced that he had developed the daguerreotype, a process involving silver on a copper plate. During the course of the 19th century, photographic processes were developed further, improving the quality of the photographs produced.

In 1884, George Eastman (founder of Eastman Kodak) developed film, which increased portability and allowed photographers to practice their art without carrying toxic chemicals with them. In 1901, Kodak's Brownie line of cameras came on the market, making photography accessible to a wider group of people. The initial price of US$1 was a product of Kodak's intention to make the camera available for anyone to use. In 1907, the first fully practical color plate was marketed. Until color film became available in the 1930s, Autochrome served as the most common color photography process available.

In 1975, the first recorded digital camera was built. The camera, which weighed eight pounds, took 23 seconds to capture its first image. This prototype was the first of a string of digital cameras which were to change the photography world forever. In 1988, the Fuji DS-1P was released. This camera is considered by many to be the first true digital camera, as it recorded photographs as a computerised file, instead of on film. The DS-1P recorded photographs to a 16MB internal memory card. The camera was not marketed in the United States, and it is not known whether it was shipped in Japan. In 1990, the Dycam Model 1 was released, allowing photographers to transfer their photographs directly to a computer. In 1991, Kodak brought its digital camera to market, with a retail price of $13,000. In 1995, Casio's QV-10 was developed, featuring the first LCD screen on the back of a camera. The same year, the first commercially-available digital video camera was released, and in 1997 the first high-quality megapixel cameras were marketed.

The development of mass market consumer electronic devices in the 2000s has allowed photography to become even more widespread than before. Many now carry cameras in their pocket in the form of photography-enabled mobile phones, which allow photographers to take quick shots at any time without having to use a camera. The widespread use of the internet during the first decade of the 20th century has allowed photographs to become an even more effective cultural medium which has, and will continue to reflect and affect culture for years to come.

Julie Spaulding is the owner-operator of How to Develop Film, the web's premier source on film developing.

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