Feb 27 2010

Photography Basics: A Brief History of the Photograph

Published by at 7:55 pm under General

These days cameras are everywhere. Whether it’s a tiny digital camera you keep in your pocket or a medium format monstrosity you use for a hobby, cameras have become an important part of human life. With that in mind, let’s take a ride down memory lane and look at where modern photography came from and what it’s meant to our civilization.

One of the most amazing things about photographs is how heavily we depend on them to record our history and tell our stories, considering the fact that chemical photography is a relatively new science. Just think of how many old family photos you have displayed in your home in antique picture frames or old handmade wood picture frames?

The first permanent photo was created as recently as 1825 using pewter plates and a substance called “bitumen,” and later photographs were printed on glass. Paper didn’t actually become common until around 1888 thanks to the innovations of George Eastman.

In 1901, the Kodak Brownie camera was introduced to the public. This was the first time that photography was so easily accessible to the public in regards to cost and ease of use. It was during this period of time that film developing really took off as an industry. It’s incredible to think that something like getting film developed or emailing digital images, which we take for granted today, was a completely new concept just 100 years ago. The modern SLR camera has only been around for about 80 years and during that timeframe it’s construction hasn’t changed much.

While black and white photography hasn’t change much since the early 1900’s, color film on the other hand, has had a dramatic shift over this period of time. Though color photography had always been a concept chased by early photographers, color film and printing did not become widely accessible until well into the 20th century. Kodak’s “Kodachorme” was introduced around 1935, but would be a while before it would become commonplace. One interesting thing about color film advancement is looking at how black and white film is still in wide use despite the introduction of color photographs; how many people do you know that still have a black and white television?

Of course, no discussion of photo history would be complete without discussing the digital revolution. This technology, which is part of our everyday lives, has only been used for about 15 years. The first “megapixel” sensor wasn’t even developed until 1986, and now it’s one of the most common words of our technological vocabulary. Though digital photography hasn’t changed how we take pictures (point and shoot), it has had a huge impact in how we share our photographs with the world.

Photography is the way in which we document our lives and display them in picture frames in our homes and offices for all to see. A picture can be as simple as remembering a birthday party or as important as increasing awareness about a conflict on the other side of the world. They help add weight and emotion to the words of reporters as well as preserve our history for generations to come. Every photo we take is a living reminder of our relationships, achievements, strengths and weaknesses.

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