History of photography

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Joseph Nicephore Niépce - created the first permanent photograph

1821 - 1829

Niépce was a former soldier of Napoleon's army who wanted to make money by reproducing images. Around 1824, he invented the first photographic process called "heliography", which means sun drawing. He made the first permanent photograph entitled "View from the Window at Le Gras" around 1827. This was the first photograph. The positive of which was unique.

He prepared a tin plate with bitumen from Judea that both hardens and lightens under light. The plate was then exposed to light in the Camera Obscura for 8 whole hours before a usable positive was created. Due to the long exposure time, the process was only suitable for architectural photographs. Because the exposure time was so long he soon returned to using silver salts, and started using silver-coated copper plates and iodine. At this stage, he was joined by Daguerre in 1829 who resumed his experiments with silver-coated plates and halogens.

Nicéphore Niépce Nicéphore Niépce: View from the Window at Le Gras, 1826-27, heliography on a tin plate, the Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, the University of Texas, Austin, USA.

Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre - the inventor of photography

1833 - 1839

Daguerre was a theatre owner who began experimenting with the Camera Obscura for practical reasons; he was searching for the fastest way to produce images.

After Niépce died in 1833, he continued his work and invented the daguerreotype process. Silver-coated copper plates were first exposed to iodine vapours and then to light in the Camera Obscura for 30 minutes. The positive was developed using mercury vapours and finally fixed with a kitchen salt solution. The result was a unique mirror image. The process was expensive and the exposure time was still very long, which made it more suitable for making still life photographs than portraits.

On 19 August 1839, in a joint session of the French Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Fine Arts, the daguerreotype process was solemnly announced to the world. The French government bought Daguerre's invention and declared it free to the world. This date is now considered as the date of the birth of photography.

Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre: Still Life, 1837, daguerreotype, the French Society of Photography, Paris.
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