Ancient times: Camera obscuras used to form images on walls in darkened rooms; image formation via a pinhole

16th century: Brightness and clarity of camera obscuras improved by enlarging the hole inserting a telescope lens

17th century: Camera obscuras in frequent use by artists and made portable in the form of sedan chairs

1727: Professor J. Schulze mixes chalk, nitric acid, and silver in a flask; notices darkening on side of flask exposed to sunlight. Accidental creation of the first photo-sensitive compound.

1800: Thomas Wedgwood makes “sun pictures” by placing opaque objects on leather treated with silver nitrate; resulting images deteriorated rapidly, however, if displayed under light stronger than from candles.

1816: Nicephore Niepce combines the camera obscura with photosensitive paper

French inventor Joseph Niepce made the first fixed photographic images.  In 1827 he used a primitive camera and a bitumen-coated pewter plate to  capture this image of a Set Table, which is one of his earliest photographs.

French inventor Joseph Niepce made the first fixed photographic images. In 1827 he used a primitive camera and a bitumen-coated pewter plate to capture this image of a Set Table, which is one of his earliest photographs.

1826: Niepce creates a permanent image

First Negative Image

First Negative Image

1834: Henry Fox Talbot creates permanent (negative) images using paper soaked in silver chloride and fixed with a salt solution. Talbot created positive images by contact printing onto another sheet of paper.

Daguerreotype of Daguerre

Daguerreotype of Daguerre

1837: Louis Daguerre creates images on silver-plated copper, coated with silver iodide and “developed” with warmed mercury; Daguerre is awarded a state pension by the French government in exchange for publication of methods and the rights by other French citizens to use the Daguerreotype process.

William Fox Talbot and stiff collar

William Fox Talbot and stiff collar

1841: Talbot patents his process under the name “calotype”.

1851: Frederick Scott Archer, a sculptor in London, improves photographic resolution by spreading a mixture of collodion (nitrated cotton dissolved in ether and alcoohol) and chemicals on sheets of glass. Wet plate collodion photography was much cheaper than daguerreotypes, the negative/positive process permitted unlimited reproductions, and the process was published but not patented.

Frederick Scott Archer 1813 - 1857. Inventor of the Wet Collodion Process.

Frederick Scott Archer 1813 - 1857. Inventor of the Wet Collodion Process.

1853: Nada (Felix Toumachon) opens his portrait studio in Paris

1854: Adolphe Disderi develops carte-de-visite photography in Paris, leading to worldwide boom in portrait studios for the next decade

1855: Beginning of stereoscopic era

1855-57: Direct positive images on glass (ambrotypes) and metal (tintypes or ferrotypes) popular in the US.

1861: Scottish physicist James Clerk-Maxwell demonstrates a color photography system involving three black and white photographs, each taken through a red, green, or blue filter. The photos were turned into lantern slides and projected in registration with the same color filters. This is the “color separation” method.

M. Brady's Team in Field 1863

M. Brady's Team in Field 1863

1861-65: Mathew Brady and staff (mostly staff) covers the American Civil War, exposing 7000 negatives

1868: Ducas de Hauron publishes a book proposing a variety of methods for color photography.

Yellowstone Expedition 1871. William Henry Jackson second from right standing.

Yellowstone Expedition 1871. William Henry Jackson second from right standing.

1870: Center of period in which the US Congress sent photographers out to the West. The most famous images were taken by William Jackson and Tim O’Sullivan.

1871: Richard Leach Maddox, an English doctor, proposes the use of an emulsion of gelatin and silver bromide on a glass plate, the “dry plate” process.

1877: Eadweard Muybridge, born in England as Edward Muggridge, settles “do a horse’s four hooves ever leave the ground at once” bet among rich San Franciscans by time-sequenced photography of Leland Stanford’s horse. Click here for more.  1878: Dry plates being manufactured commercially.

Thomas Edison, right, prepares a motion-picture camera with George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak Company.

Thomas Edison, right, prepares a motion-picture camera with George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak Company.

1880: George Eastman, age 24, sets up Eastman Dry Plate Company in Rochester, New York. First half-tone photograph appears in a daily newspaper, the New York Graphic.

1888: First Kodak camera, containing a 20-foot roll of paper, enough for 100 2.5-inch diameter circular pictures.

1889: Improved Kodak camera with roll of film instead of paper

1890: Jacob Riis publishes How the Other Half Lives, images of tenament life in New york City