The Beginning Of Photography Essay

4399 words - 18 pages

1First, the name. We owe the name "Photography" to Sir John Herschel, who first used theterm in 1839, the year the photographic process became public. The word is derived from theGreek words for light and writing.Before mentioning the stages that led to the development of photography, there is oneamazing, quite uncanny prediction made by a man called de la Roche (1729-1774) in a workcalled Giphantie. In this imaginary tale, it was possible to capture images from nature, on acanvas which had been coated with a sticky substance.1 This surface, so the tale goes, would notonly provide a mirror image on the sticky canvas, but would remain on it. After it had been driedin the dark the image would remain permanent. The author would not have known howprophetic this tale would be, only a few decades after his death.There are two distinct scientific processes that combine to make photography possible. Itis somewhat surprising that photography was not invented earlier than the 1830s, because theseprocesses had been known for quite some time. It was not until the two distinct scientificprocesses had been put together that photography came into being.The first of these processes was optical. The Camera Obscura (dark room) had been inexistence for at least four hundred years. There is a drawing, dated 1519, of a Camera Obscuraby Leonardo da Vinci; about this same period its use as an aid to drawing was being advocated.2The second process was chemical. For hundreds of years before photography wasinvented, people had been aware, for example, that some colours are bleached in the sun, butthey had made little distinction between heat, air and light.In the sixteen hundreds Robert Boyle, a founder of the Royal Society, had reported thatsilver chloride turned dark under exposure, but he appeared to believe that it was caused byexposure to the air, rather than to light.Angelo Sala, in the early seventeenth century, noticed that powdered nitrate of silver isblackened by the sun.3 In 1727 Johann Heinrich Schulze discovered that certain liquids changecolour when exposed to light. At the beginning of the nineteenth century Thomas Wedgwoodwas conducting experiments; he had successfully captured images, but his silhouettes could notsurvive, as there was no known method of making the image permanent.The first successfulpicture was produced by Niépce,using material that hardened on exposure to light.42On 4 January 1829 Niépce agreed to go into partnership with Louis Daguerre. Niépcedied only four years later, but Daguerre continued to experiment. Soon he had discovered a wayof developing photographic plates, a process which greatly reduced the exposure time from eighthours down to half an hour. He also discovered that an image could be made permanent byimmersing it in salt.5Following a report on this invention by Paul Delaroche, a leading scholar of the day, theFrench government bought the rights to it in July 1839. Details of the process were made...

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