Since the beginning of time, humans have tried to capture images of their lives. Our ancestors painted on cave walls and then, as other media were developed, painted on canvas or paper. As you might learn in photography school, the first photographs were taken in the early 1800s by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. His fellow Frenchman, Louis Daguerre, improved the process by inventing what is called the daguerreotype. The method involved silver exposed to fumes of iodine and then mercury to form the photograph.
By the mid-1800s, photographs were being taken and developed on glass. A few years later, a colloidal method was developed, and this technique is still the main one for black and white prints. Cameras were also improved. The ones you might use in a photography school class now are similar in many ways to those developed in the mid–nineteenth century.
Photographers began to take both portraits and scenic pictures and to sell their services to clients.
George Eastman from Rochester, New York, invented film that would be developed for photographs. His company began producing Kodak cameras and film and became a huge name in the field. Anyone could use a Kodak camera, take a picture, and have the film developed without need of a photographer. However, formal portraits and scenic pictures were still taken by professionals.
Experiments with color photography began in the 1800s, but it was difficult to keep the colors from fading. The three-color system that is the basis of color photography, as you will learn in photography school, was proposed in 1855, but it took years to reach its full potential. New dyes that produce color without fading and that could set in minutes were finally discovered. In 1935, Kodak introduced a color film for the general public. Instant color film came along in 1963 by way of Polaroid pictures. Digital pictures have developed along with electronics such as the CCD (charge-coupled device).
Cameras trace their development along with film and photographic techniques. The first cameras used glass plates and the exposure time required people to sit absolutely still for several minutes. Eastman introduced a simple box camera that had a single shutter speed and a fixed-focus lens in 1888. The Leica camera, using 35 mm film, was invented in Germany and put on the market in 1925. Kodak also introduced a 35 mm camera and the Japanese followed with Canon in 1936.
Improvements to viewfinders, shutter speeds, light meters, and the single-lens reflex cameras followed World War II. Classes in photography school will cover the importance of these developments.
Digital cameras and the computer software to manage the photographs have come along since the 1960s and 1970s. Video cameras also followed this time frame of development.
Along with the advancement of photographic film and cameras, the history of photographers has grown. Matthew Brady photographed the Civil War and brought the battlefield to the public. Ansel Adams’ portraits of Western scenery inspired thousands of Americans. Other photographs appeared in newspapers and magazines, recording events that captured the imagination of people—photographs that we all recognize, such as the sailor kissing the girl at the end of World War II, the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima, images of people from the Dust Bowl years, the picture of a single man facing a tank in China, and many others.
Photography has the ability to capture time and preserve our memories. In photography school, you will learn techniques and how to use the equipment to take beautiful and poignant photographs. But the desire to do so will come from your heart.