Maldon Archive
Keeping the Past Alive

A Brief History of Photography

This is the boring bit, on a summers day in 1827, Nicephore Niepce (born Joseph Niepce) (7th March 1765 - 5th July 1833) a French inventor, made the first photographic image with a camera obscura. Prior to Joseph Nicephore Niepce, people just used the camera obscura for viewing or drawing purposes and not for making photographs. Joseph Nicephore Niepce's heliographs or sun prints as they were called were the prototype for the modern photograph, by letting light draw the picture. Niepce placed an engraving onto a metal plate coated in bitumen, and then exposed it to light.  The shadowy areas of the engraving blocked light, but the whiter areas permitted light to react with the chemicals on the plate. When Niepce placed the metal plate in a solvent, gradually an image, until then invisible, appeared. However, Niepce's photograph required eight hours of light exposure to create and after appearing would sadly soon fade away. Photography as we know it today, was invented or credited to a Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre (18th November 1787 - 10th July 1851) a French artist and physicist, was experimenting with silver compounds based on a Johann Heinrich Schultz discovery in 1816, that a silver and chalk mixture darkens when exposed to light.     

Daguerre took the first ever photo of a person in 1838 when, (know as a   daguerreotype produced on a copper plate) in a Paris street, a pedestrian stopped for   a shoe shine, long enough to be captured by the long exposure of several minutes. Meanwhile, William Henry Fox Talbot (11th February 1800 - 17th September 1877) a British  inventor, had earlier discovered another means to fix a silver process image   but had kept it secret. After reading about Daguerre's invention, Talbot refined his process so that portraits were made readily available to the masses. By 1840, Talbot had invented the calotype process, which creates negative images. Talbot's famous 1835 print of the Oriel window in Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire is the oldest known      negative in existence. Today Lacock Abbey is the home of The Fox Talbot Museum. 

The first recorded attempt at building a digital camera was in 1975 by Steven Sasson,  an engineer at Eastman Kodak. It used the then-new solid-state CCD image sensor chips developed by Fairchild Semiconductor in 1973.The camera weighed 8 pounds   (3.6 kg), recorded black and white images to a cassette tape, had a resolution of 0.01 megapixels (10,000 pixels), and took 23 seconds to capture its first image in December 1975.    The prototype camera was a technical exercise, not intended for production.