Through the lens

A short history of photography

At first - the camera obscura

What is it ?

The camera obscura, also known as the dark room or dark chamber, was originally a room or a box with a hole cut in it. This hole allowed light to enter and reflected the scene on the opposite side. This principle is described in Plato's ancient myth of the cave, where locked in the cave you can't see the real world but only its representation, upside down.

It is not certain that the principle of reflecting light and producing an inverted image was well understood in Antiquity. It took centuries for the camera obscura to create images and aid drawing. From the 16th century, its use changed and evolved, and was no longer limited to observing eclipses.

The first permanent image

How ?

It was a French inventor, Nicéphore Niépce, who invented the first permanent photograph in 1824. Far from the instant photography we all know today, it was an extremely long process based on sunlight, heliography. In just a few years, he managed to improve the quality of his photographs by using different media, from copper to metal plates.

After his death in 1833, his colleague Louis Daguerre continued his research and took it to a higher level, enabling photographs to be marketed for the very first time in 1839, using polished sliver plate.

From 1841, this is an English inventor, William Henry Fox Talbot, that will develop further the photography and its techniques, using waxed paper and albumen paper. Thanks to his research he developed the negatives image on a sheet of silver iodide-coated paper, allowing the reproduction of the same image and accelerating the market potential of the photography. His techniques are still in use nowadays.

Among other, a very important contribution is from Richard Maddox, English photographer and physician. In the 1870s, he invented the gelatin dry-plate method. It allowed photographers to expose and save plates for subsequent development. A glass plate was coated with gelatin and a light-sensitive silver salt combination, which was then dried and kept until needed.

At this period of time, 19th and beginning of 20th century, the photography involved a lot of technical skills and knowledge in chemistry and spectrum of light. From the mid of 20th century technologies development accelerated and gave place to an industrialization of the techniques ensuring the democratization to the camera and allowing everyone to capture moment and places...

The 21st century has seen the photography being transformed, again, with the increase of digital art where photographs are reworked through digital processes to give place to a new image, an image that cannot be captured in the nature, an image in between reality and imagination.