Looking at The Historical Background of Photography

Looking at The Historical Background of Photography
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Photography is a large part of our everyday lives, but it started out as a tool that inspired criticisms that included blasphemy. Here is a historical background of photography that would make us understand how the process turned from being Satan’s tool to being an essential part of our lives.

A Product of Two Processes

Photography is a marriage of two scientific processes that have existed centuries before photography was developed. These two processes are the dark room, or the camera obscura, and chemicals changing color when exposed to light. For centuries, the camera obscura has aided men to produce drawings. This dark room effect involves punching a hole through a window inside a dark room during a bright day. The light coming through this small hole produces an upside down image of the outside world on the wall opposite the window.

Camera Obscura

As early as the 5th century BC, the principle of the dark room had already been documented by scholars. The effects of the process has been recorded. For centuries, the effect was only observed in large dark rooms, usually used for observing a solar eclipse. It became an aid for artists in their drawings after mirrors and convex lenses were introduced in the process during the 16th century, producing a better quality image. As it was adapted by a lot of artists, the official term for the effect was used. While the effect was still used in dark rooms, its use in drawings pushed further development of the principle using portable devices.

Capturing Images Using Light

For centuries, scientists have observed certain substances change color when exposed to a certain amount of light. This principle led scientists like Thomas Wedgwood to experiment on capturing images using the camera obscura effect and the exposure to light of chemicals like silver chloride and silver nitrate. The first few attempts only produced temporary images, but eventually, a permanent image was produced using the two processes in 1827 by Niepce.

Developing Photography

The process of capturing images using light and chemicals was further developed in the early 1800s. The time for developing images was gradually shortened until the whole process became a viable tool for people to immortalize real life images. The term “photography” was finally coined in 1839 as the process became public knowledge. Artists initially saw it as a threat to their way of life, even calling it blasphemy. The first photographically illustrated book was published in 1844 by William Henry Fox Talbot. Different materials were tried as negatives, including paper and glass. The process of photography was expensive and it took a lot of time, until it was improved in 1851 by Frederick Scoot Archer with his introduction of the Collodion process which is a much faster way of applying exposure. By the end of the 1800s, the process has become accessible even to people who did not have a lot of technical knowledge, thanks in large to the box camera which was introduced in 1888. Photography has been used to capture photos of people, nature and events. By the end of the 1800s, magazines began to use photos in their articles, ushering a new age of publishing and journalism.


The historical background of photography started with science. The process was developed during a time of criticisms from purists who wanted to stick with the old way of producing images. It matured as a tool for journalism and posterity and now there are several various types of photography.




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