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
1826: Niepce creates a permanent 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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