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Who Are the Pioneers in the Evolution of Photography?

By Sophia, published on 16/02/2018 Blog > Arts and Hobbies > Photography > The History of Photography

Are you enamoured of photography? Is your quest to immortalise daily scenes; to treat them to your own particular brand of creativity?

If you hope to one day to be counted among the greatest photographers, it is necessary to know by heart the history and evolution of the art of photography.

Through relentless work and overarching curiosity, these great names in photography have made this form of art accessible to all.

Through their work, unwittingly, an entire industry and the technology to support it was born!

As you engage in professional training in photography, learning the history of photography is compulsory.

Superprof now gives you a head start by highlighting a few of the major figures who gave rise to photography as fine art.

Early photography was driven by the principles of the camera obscura An illustration of how a camera obscura works Source: Wikipedia

Thomas Wedgwood: Conductor of Photo Experiments

Born in 1771 in England, Thomas Wedgwood remains today one of the first major names in the first photography.

His use of light-sensitive chemicals is the first documented instance of image capture, albeit only in silhouette, on a tangible medium.

One early attempt, using white leather coated with silver nitrate, yielded better results than with similarly coated paper, but in either case, the image remained only for a few days before fading away.

Why, you ask?

External light: sunlight reacted with the silver nitrate, irrevocably damaging the unsealed photograph.

The sad result was that all of Wedgwood’s photographs could only be viewed in a dark room, lest they spontaneously burst into flame.

Although he has never been able to definitively fix a clear image on any medium, Thomas Wedgwood is credited with taking the first step toward modern photography technique.

He held a lifelong fascination with early education. His rationalisation that vision was the primary sense through which children learn is what set him on the path to photographic immortality.

Even though he spent years studying infants, he never married or had children. Death claimed him far too soon: he was only 35 years old upon his passing.

UPDATE: rumours circulated in 2008 that a photograph taken by Wedgwood, dated to sometime in 1790, was discovered.

Prior to auction, the image was withdrawn from the block because of numerous controversies surrounding the authenticity of the photograph.

What do you think of these twenty best quotes about photography?

Nicéphore Niépce: Inventor of the Heliograph

Born in 1765 in France into a wealthy family, Nicéphore Niépce is often seen as the pioneer of photographic art.

In 1822, he invented heliography, a process of transferring a photographic positive image onto a photosensitive varnish made with bitumen of Judea (an organic pigment).

It is to this French photographer that we owe history’s first preserved photograph!

Captured at his countryside home, exposure took several days to complete, the end result being a level of sharpness never before obtained.

In 2003, Life magazine listed this image as one of the 100 photographs that changed the world.

Before this revolutionary invention, this pioneer photographer met with a few more or less fruitful experiences.

In his darkroom, Niépce coats a sheet of white paper with silver chloride, later transferring an image onto it.

This experiment was considered a failure, since he was unable to definitively fix the image captured by his camera obscura.

His big success, the heliograph, was no cause to rest on any laurels.

Niépce made a name for himself in the field of photography, but died in 1833, at 68 years old, before he could complete his ongoing experiments.

Nevertheless, his efforts are etched in our collective memory, and feature prominently in the world of photography.

Want to read about reading about photography? Take a look at our article on books on photography.

One of the earliest photos of busy street life, a daguerreotype This daguerreotype, the very first candid shot of a human, was snapped in 1838 Source: Wikipedia Credit: Louis Daguerre

Louis Daguerre and the Daguerreotype

Born in 1787, Louis Daguerre was a French artist and photographer.

Longtime friend of Nicéphore Niépce, Louis Daguerre continued his mentor’s research after Niépce‘s death.

It was during the 19th century that Louis Daguerre invented the technique that bears his name: the daguerreotype.

The concept seems elemental: expose a silver plate to iodine vapors, forming a silver iodide. And then, expose the coated plate to mercury vapors to reveal and fix the image.

Compared to the heliograph’s day-long exposure, this method of image capture was considered very fast: it only needed about twenty minutes.

The concept was revolutionary and the results were astounding!

Nevertheless, the daguerreotype was a single use proposition, so any demonstration of the process or exhibit of the finished product was limited to one photograph only.

It is thanks to this French inventor that the practice of photography was revealed to the whole world.

People were mad to have their likeness captured!

The process soon made it way to the four corners of the world, especially throughout Europe and in America.

Enjoying tremendous success thanks to the commercialization of the daguerreotype, Daguerre proclaimed himself to be the true inventor of photography.

He insisted on that distinction as an epitaph.

Louis Daguerre died in 1851, his skill as a painter and inventor of the diorama theatre eclipsed by France’s gift to the world: photography.

Daguerre is one of the 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower. Do you know the others?

Thomas Sutton: Inventor of Colour Photography

Born in 1819, Thomas Sutton was an English photographer, inventor, and author.

Paging all amateur photographers and photography trivia buffs: when was the first panoramic camera with wide-angle lens invented?

What about the single lens reflex camera, what we call the SLR camera?

Many believe such technology could only have been born within the last 75 years or so but, in fact, Thomas Sutton pioneered the concept panoramic imaging in 1859.

1861 saw the invention of the reflex camera. People have been seeing the world through a viewfinder ever since!

The inventive capacity of Thomas Sutton’s mind did not stop there.

In the same year the reflex camera premiered, and with the help of his friend, scientist James Clerk Maxwell, Thomas Sutton set up a demonstration of colour photography.

To accomplish this, Sutton took three black and white photographs of the same ribbon. Each was snapped with a different filter: one blue, the second, green; and the last, red.

He then projected the superimposed images onto a screen via three separate projectors, each equipped with a corresponding coloured filter. The experiment was a partial success.

As it turns out, the photographic materials available at that time were sensitive to blue light, not very sensitive to green light and completely insensitive to red light.

Still: these early dabblings represented a significant advance in photographic research, whose discovery paved the way for many later inventions.

Thomas Sutton died in 1875, leaving behind and entire library of photo learning manuals that he had penned, most notably The Dictionary of Photography, published in 1858.

He also wrote quite a few novels but, as an avid photographer, wouldn’t you like to get your hands on his original photography masterwork?

How would you like to lug a camera around that weighs 8 pounds? We owe the economy of digital cameras to Steven Sasson Source: Pixabay Credit: Piro4D

Steven Sasson: Developer of the Digital Camera

Do you know when and how the first digital camera came about?

Born in 1950 in New York City, Steven Sasson trained as an electrical engineer. One of his first jobs was with the Kodak group, during the 1970s.

It was in 1975 that Sasson developed the prototype that would stand the world of photography on its ear: the digital camera.

His supervisor at Eastman Kodak had given him a broad assignment – one could say it was more of a challenge: attempt to build an electronic camera, using a charge-coupled device.

CCDs is the technology that drives digital imaging, still today!

The contraption that Mr. Sasson came up weighed 8 pounds and recorded only black and white images onto a cassette – a process that took 23 seconds.

The first digital camera had only 0.01 megapixels!

In spite of it being unsuited to the mass market, this electronic camera propelled Kodak back to the forefront of photographic innovation, a place it had held more or less consistently for the previous 70 years.

The brand had fallen on hard times in the latter half of the 20th century due to competition from other companies, most notably import camera models – but that is another story altogether.

Today, Steve Sasson is still employed by Kodak. His job is to protect the company’s intellectual capital.

As with all great names in photography before him, he has had many awards bestowed upon him, including induction into the Inventors’ National Hall of Fame.

Besides that distinction, he was given the National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Obama, and our Royal Photographic Society accorded him Honorary Fellowship, along with its Progress Medal.

Thus it came to pass that an American was recognised as one of the greatest inventors of photography, as we practice it today.

Think about that the next time you buy memory cards for your DSLR camera, or prior to enroling in intermediate or advanced photography courses!

The Invention of Photography: Where Has it Taken Us?

Today, as we brandish the camera, few give thought to the photographing pioneers who risked their health and even sanity, sniffing mercury fumes and dabbling with chemicals.

Commercial photography has become a legitimate profession, one that people spend years in photography school to master.

How do you see yourself, as a professional photographer?

Online or through formal institutes of higher learning, and with your digital SLR you could specialise in:

  • wedding photography
  • portrait photography
  • macro photography
  • nature photography
    • or landscape photography, if you so please!
  • wildlife photography
  • photojournalism
  • street photography
  • travel photography

Rather than attending any photography classes – if capturing images is more of a hobby for you, you can learn photography skills through workshops.

Basics of photography: composition, posing subjects, white balance, shutter speed, aperture and exposure; all the way to editing images or developing and retouching – all can be learned with a mentor.

If you have determined that digital photography suits your style, you can learn all about Photoshop and Lightroom, how to work with RAW files and build an online portfolio.

Once you have the fundamentals down pat, you can move away from basic photography and into the realm of visual storytelling.

Using tricks of professional photographers, you too can create amazing imagery.

Long exposure used in night photography, for example, is how more advanced photographers capture light trails in their shots.

Playing with depth of field is what gives the impression of a background out of focus, while the subject remains sharply defined.

But this article is not meant to be a photography course; it stands to introduce you to those we owe the art of photography to.

You can learn all of these photography tips and more through photography workshops, or online photography courses.

Now, back to our topic!

The Brownie was one of the earliest models of personal camera The brownie flash camera enjoyed huge popularity in part because of its low cost Source: Pixabay Credit: StockSnap

Other Names You Will Hear in Photography Training

The greatest inventors in the field of photography were inspired by other creators, many of them less renown, all of whom helped to perfect your every shot.

As well as improved image editing in post production; and even enabled different styles of photography.

This article lists just a few names that merit recognition for their contributions to photographic art; there are several more.

Prominent among them is George Eastman, inventor of the film roll, which ultimately made photography accessible to everyone.

We should keep in mind that not one of these men was a pro photographer. In fact, the art of photography had yet to be established!

They were merely practical men with lofty ideas, possessed of a fundamental curiosity, who intuited that natural light could be used to capture images for posterity.

We honour these pioneers of the art by practicing it, daily and diligently. That is the very best way for you to take your skill to the next level.

You could progress even faster by taking courses in photography.

Perhaps all you need is a bit of tutelage. If that is the case, Superprof photography instructors await you.

With an average cost of £20 per lesson, anywhere in the UK, we urge you to not trip over your tripod in your eagerness to sign up.

Who knows? One day we might see your art in a photography magazine!

Read our blog on the best universities for studying photography.

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