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ancient times: Camera obscuras used to form images on walls in
darkened rooms; image formation via a pinhole
16th century: Brightness and clarity of camera obscuras improved
by enlarging the hole inserting a telescope lens
17th century: Camera obscuras in frequent use by artists and made
portable in the form of sedan chairs
1727: Professor J. Schulze mixes chalk, nitric acid, and silver in
a flask; notices darkening on side of flask exposed to sunlight. Accidental creation of the first photo-sensitive compound.
1800: Thomas Wedgwood makes "sun pictures" by placing opaque
objects on leather treated with silver nitrate; resulting images
deteriorated rapidly, however, if displayed under light stronger than
1816: Nicéphore Niépce combines the camera obscura
with photosensitive paper
1826: Niépce creates a permanent image
1834: Henry Fox Talbot creates permanent (negative) images using
paper soaked in silver chloride and fixed with a salt solution.
Talbot created positive images by contact printing onto another sheet
1837: Louis Daguerre creates images on silver-plated copper,
coated with silver iodide and "developed" with warmed mercury;
Daguerre is awarded a state pension by the French government in
exchange for publication of methods and the rights by other French
citizens to use the Daguerreotype process.
1841: Talbot patents his process under the name "calotype".
1851: Frederick Scott Archer, a sculptor in London, improves
photographic resolution by spreading a mixture of collodion (nitrated
cotton dissolved in ether and alcoohol) and chemicals on sheets of
glass. Wet plate collodion photography was much cheaper than
daguerreotypes, the negative/positive process permitted unlimited
reproductions, and the process was published but not patented.
1853: Nadar (Felix Toumachon) opens his portrait studio in Paris
1854: Adolphe Disderi develops carte-de-visite photography
in Paris, leading to worldwide boom in portrait studios for the next
1855: Beginning of stereoscopic era
1855-57: Direct positive images on glass (ambrotypes) and metal
(tintypes or ferrotypes) popular in the US.
1861: Scottish physicist James Clerk-Maxwell demonstrates a color
photography system involving three black and white photographs, each
taken through a red, green, or blue filter. The photos were turned
into lantern slides and projected in registration with the same color
filters. This is the "color separation" method.
1861-65: Mathew Brady and staff (mostly staff) covers the American
Civil War, exposing 7000 negatives
1868: Ducas de Hauron publishes a book proposing a variety of
methods for color photography.
1870: Center of period in which the US Congress sent photographers
out to the West. The most famous images were taken by William
Jackson and Tim O'Sullivan.
1871: Richard Leach Maddox, an English doctor, proposes the use
of an emulsion of gelatin and silver bromide on a glass plate, the
"dry plate" process.
1877: Eadweard Muybridge, born in England as Edward Muggridge,
settles "do a horse's four hooves ever leave the ground at once" bet
among rich San Franciscans by time-sequenced photography of Leland
1878: Dry plates being manufactured commercially.
1880: George Eastman, age 24, sets up Eastman Dry Plate Company
in Rochester, New York. First half-tone photograph appears in a daily
newspaper, the New York Graphic.
1888: First Kodak camera, containing a 20-foot roll of paper,
enough for 100 2.5-inch diameter circular pictures.
1889: Improved Kodak camera with roll of film instead of paper
1890: Jacob Riis publishes How the Other Half Lives,
images of tenament life in New york City
1900: Kodak Brownie box roll-film camera introduced.
1906: Availability of panchromatic black and white film and
therefore high quality color separation color photography. J.P. Morgan
finances Edward Curtis to document the traditional culture of the North American Indian.
1907: First commercial color film, the Autochrome plates,
manufactured by Lumiere brothers in France
1909: Lewis Hine hired by US National Child Labor Committee to
photograph children working mills.
1914: Oscar Barnack, employed by German microscope manufacturer
Leitz, develops camera using the modern 24x36mm frame and sprocketed
35mm movie film.
1917: Nippon Kogaku K.K., which will eventually become Nikon,
established in Tokyo.
1921: Man Ray begins making photograms ("rayographs") by placing
objects on photographic paper and exposing the shadow cast by a distant
light bulb; Eugegrave;ne Atget, aged 64, assigned to photograph the brothels
1924: Leitz markets a derivative of Barnack's camera commercially
as the "Leica", the first high quality 35mm camera.
1925: André Kertész moves from his native Hungary to
Paris, where he begins an 11-year project photographing street life
1928: Albert Renger-Patzsch publishes The World is
Beautiful, close-ups emphasizing the form of natural and
man-made objects; Rollei introduces the Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex
producing a 6x6 cm image on rollfilm.; Karl Blossfeldt publishes
Art Forms in Nature
1931: Development of strobe photography by Harold ("Doc") Edgerton at MIT
1932: Inception of Technicolor for movies, where three black and
white negatives were made in the same camera under different filters;
Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Willard Van Dyke, Edward Weston, et al,
form Group f/64 dedicated to "straight photographic thought and
production".; Henri Cartier-Bresson buys a Leica and begins a 60-year
career photographing people; On March 14, George Eastman, aged 77, writes suicide
note--"My work is done. Why wait?"--and shoots himself.
1934: Fuji Photo Film founded. By 1938, Fuji is making cameras and
lenses in addition to film.
1935: Farm Security Administration hires Roy Stryker to run a
historical section. Stryker would hire Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange,
Arthur Rothstein, et al. to photograph rural hardships over the next
six years. Roman Vishniac
begins his project of the soon-to-be-killed-by-their-neighbors Jews of Central and Eastern Europe.
1936: Development of Kodachrome, the first color multi-layered
color film; development of Exakta, pioneering 35mm single-lens reflex
World War II:
Development of multi-layer color negative films
Margaret Bourke-White, Robert Capa, Carl Mydans, and W. Eugene Smith
cover the war for LIFE magazine
1947: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, and David Seymour start
the photographer-owned Magnum picture agency
1948: Hasselblad in Sweden offers its first medium-format SLR for
commercial sale; Pentax in Japan introduces the automatic diaphragm;
Polaroid sells instant black and white film
1949: East German Zeiss develops the Contax S, first SLR with an
unreversed image in a pentaprism viewfinder
1955: Edward Steichen curates Family of Man exhibit at New York's
Museum of Modern Art
1959: Nikon F introduced.
1960: Garry Winogrand begins photographing women on the streets of
New York City.
1963: First color instant film developed by Polaroid; Instamatic
released by Kodak; first purpose-built underwater introduced, the