History of the Camera

From camera obscurae to digital cameras, iPhoneography and photo apps, photography continues to evolve. Detailed below are several of the most influential technological developments in photography, and the key figures who advanced the camera :

Camera Obscura

The camera is regarded as a recent invention. Primitive versions are believed to have been used by ancient Greeks and Chinese. Early camera obscurae involved a dark room with a hole in one wall, or a simple box with a hole in the side. An inverted image was projected on the wall or box side opposite the hole. The size of the hole directly impacting the sharpness of the image. For centuries, astronomers used camera obscurae to observe the sun and other celestial objects without damaging their eyes.

Johann Zahn and Photography-Capable Cameras

Camera obscurae could not create permanent photographic images. Instead, users were forced to manually trace the projected images created by early versions of the camera. Not only were camera obscurae unable to create lasting images, they were large and impractical. Johann Zahn solved both problems with his portable camera. It was not widely used for photography until over a century after he invented it. First, it was up to Nicéphore Niépce to discover a process for creating permanent images. He used a camera obscura to capture such early photos as View from the Window at Le Gras.

Louis Daggeure and Modern Photography

Louis Daggeure and Nicéphore Niépce worked together to make the photography process more efficient. Over a decade after Nicéphore Niépce first managed to take a lasting photograph, Daggeure created a photography system that he named after himself. Sadly, Niépce was unable to witness the daggeurotype, as he’d already passed away. However, Niépce’s son assisted Daggure in selling the daggeuotype to the French government. Word of the device quickly spread, with American photographer Mathew Brady using it to capture the devastation of the Civil War.

Wet and Dry Plates

The art of photography quickly advanced when, in 1851, Frederick Scoff Archer invented the wet plate negative. This photography solution involved a silver salt-coated glass plate. The result was a more detailed negative. This development was quickly followed by dry plate negatives, which absorbed light quickly. This in turn made the use of handheld cameras possible. A few years after the development of dry plates, George Eastman came up with a more flexible type of film. His film could easily be rolled and stored within a small box camera. Today it is known as Kodak.

Color Photography

The first color photographs were created in 1848, but color photography did not come into wide usage until nearly a century later. Landscape photographer Ansel Adams (primarily known for his photos of national parks and the American West) experimented with color, although he generally preferred black and white.

Digital Cameras and Phone-Based Photography

The very first digital cameras for general consumers were the Apple QuickTake 100 and the Kodak DC40, which were released in 1995. During this time, cell phone photography was still in an experimental stage, with the first publicly-shared mobile phone picture featuring Phillippe Kahn’s daughter in the maternity ward in 1997. Since then, digital photography has taken off, although many artistic types still prefer traditional photography methods.