Still Photography

The light is the artist

Photography was a revolutionary change in history. It also introduced new traditions. People already found ways to catch images but in the nineteenth century they also found a way to keep it ‘still’. People asked themselves if it was to be trusted: How can a person be copied? Did one risk losing part of oneself by taking a picture? But there was another problem. Making beautiful sharp pictures was possible. Making the technique available for the public too. Combining the two was much more difficult. This source collections provides an insight to the history and the development of the still camera, and describing the impact it had on people.

Acknowledgements: This source collection has been developed by Bjorn Pels with the support of Laura Steenbrink. The source collection makes use of sources provided by Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig, Rijksmuseum, Stichting Nederlands Fotomuseum, Suomen Valokuvataiteen Museon, The European Library, Museum Conservation Services, The European Library, KIK-IRPA, Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie, Bibliotek Acyfrowa and The Wellcome Library)

Camera Obscura

In paintings from around the sixteenth century, we see a remarkable development. Painters as Dürer make paintings with a lot more depth than before. Thanks to the Camera Obscura, a remarkable device that could catch an image for a while. It is basically a box with a hole in it. In addition to the dark, a lot of light was needed. The image in the box is depicted upside down. The center is very sharp while the image around is a lot vaguer. The important point is to shift and then you can draw over the lines. This is a drawing of people standing in a dark room, while a camera obscura projects an image on the lighted table. (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig Gei II/31 a, GOS-Nr. Gr009784, CC BY-NC-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Camera Obscura

In paintings from around the sixteenth century, we see a remarkable development. Painters as Dürer make paintings with a lot more depth than before. Thanks to the Camera Obscura, a remarkable device that could catch an image for a while. It is basically a box with a hole in it. In addition to the dark, a lot of light was needed. The image in the box is depicted upside down. The center is very sharp while the image around is a lot vaguer. The important point is to shift and then you can draw over the lines. This is a drawing of people standing in a dark room, while a camera obscura projects an image on the lighted table. (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig Gei II/31 a, GOS-Nr. Gr009784, CC BY-NC-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Smiling Man Holding a Can

The background history of the Camera Obscura is quite unknown. First, it was necessary to work with multiple cameras. That was useful in difficult compositions. It was a bit like copying and pasting. In paintings from the sixteenth century, you often see sharp lines in the middle and vague lines around it. It thus follows that the background can therefore better not be too complicated. These developments were useful for portrait painting. Just notice if you are in a museum: many people between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries seem suddenly left-handed. A famous painter who used Camera Obsura a lot was Frans Hals. (Rijksmuseum Public Domain Marked http://creativecomm ons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0)

Smiling Man Holding a Can

The background history of the Camera Obscura is quite unknown. First, it was necessary to work with multiple cameras. That was useful in difficult compositions. It was a bit like copying and pasting. In paintings from the sixteenth century, you often see sharp lines in the middle and vague lines around it. It thus follows that the background can therefore better not be too complicated. These developments were useful for portrait painting. Just notice if you are in a museum: many people between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries seem suddenly left-handed. A famous painter who used Camera Obsura a lot was Frans Hals. (Rijksmuseum Public Domain Marked http://creativecomm ons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0)

Bitumen-images

In 1826 Niépce made the first photo on a plate covered with a light-sensitive bitumen (a type of asphalt). He needed an exposure time of eight hours in bright sunlight. On a famous photograph he made of his roof, there is a shadow from two sides. This was done by placing the camera on several spots. These bitumen-images, which in addition to black and white could also show shades of gray, could also be fixed and converted into positive images. The first pictures had a silver surface. The negative was the original and it was not possible to duplicate. (Stichting Nederlands Fotomuseum 714963ac-f3f5-941a-b86a-506d67368a93, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Bitumen-images

In 1826 Niépce made the first photo on a plate covered with a light-sensitive bitumen (a type of asphalt). He needed an exposure time of eight hours in bright sunlight. On a famous photograph he made of his roof, there is a shadow from two sides. This was done by placing the camera on several spots. These bitumen-images, which in addition to black and white could also show shades of gray, could also be fixed and converted into positive images. The first pictures had a silver surface. The negative was the original and it was not possible to duplicate. (Stichting Nederlands Fotomuseum 714963ac-f3f5-941a-b86a-506d67368a93, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Daguerre

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (18 November 1787 – 10 July 1851) was a French artist and photographer, recognized for his invention of the daguerreotype, the process of photography that is often seen as the first photographic process. Daguerre became thus known as one of the fathers of photography. Although he is most famous for his contributions to photography, he was also an accomplished painter and a developer of the diorama theatre. (Stichting Nederlands Fotomuseum 009b83e2-4fcf-1ab9-4126-69587799b46c, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Daguerre

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (18 November 1787 – 10 July 1851) was a French artist and photographer, recognized for his invention of the daguerreotype, the process of photography that is often seen as the first photographic process. Daguerre became thus known as one of the fathers of photography. Although he is most famous for his contributions to photography, he was also an accomplished painter and a developer of the diorama theatre. (Stichting Nederlands Fotomuseum 009b83e2-4fcf-1ab9-4126-69587799b46c, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

View over Paris

To the public, this photo may look quite realistic. This photo is from Paris and is also very sharp. It is a Daguerreotype. The disadvantage of these pictures are that they tear when they come into contact with light. Photos on silver of cityscapes are very rare, because the machine was very heavy and the technique was difficult. (Stichting Nederlands Fotomuseum 4c92f505-cace-8e76-6cf0-8fbcdf282ccb, CC BY http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

View over Paris

To the public, this photo may look quite realistic. This photo is from Paris and is also very sharp. It is a Daguerreotype. The disadvantage of these pictures are that they tear when they come into contact with light. Photos on silver of cityscapes are very rare, because the machine was very heavy and the technique was difficult. (Stichting Nederlands Fotomuseum 4c92f505-cace-8e76-6cf0-8fbcdf282ccb, CC BY http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

Daguerreotype portrait

Portraits by the Daguerreotype were very popular. People made often only one or two pictures of themselves in their lives. You pay per image and not per person as happened in paintings. The people were surprised: the photos were small and did not move. The fact that the pictures were black and white at this stage did not strike anybody as odd. In this picture we see a young man posing with his Camera. (Stichting Nederlands Fotomuseum 46ec267f-e91c-9e96-4da8-fc06fbaa021c, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0)

Daguerreotype portrait

Portraits by the Daguerreotype were very popular. People made often only one or two pictures of themselves in their lives. You pay per image and not per person as happened in paintings. The people were surprised: the photos were small and did not move. The fact that the pictures were black and white at this stage did not strike anybody as odd. In this picture we see a young man posing with his Camera. (Stichting Nederlands Fotomuseum 46ec267f-e91c-9e96-4da8-fc06fbaa021c, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0)

Landscape covered in snow

Paintings already exist since a very long time. Photography does not. With a photograph, it was difficult to determine where to put your focus on. This picture shows a rock covered with snow. (Suomen Valokuvataiteen Museon b3dbd1dc-f574-7a79-53dd-83db2945df1d, CC BY-NC-ND http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/)

Landscape covered in snow

Paintings already exist since a very long time. Photography does not. With a photograph, it was difficult to determine where to put your focus on. This picture shows a rock covered with snow. (Suomen Valokuvataiteen Museon b3dbd1dc-f574-7a79-53dd-83db2945df1d, CC BY-NC-ND http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/)

The development of the negative

This photography of a bridge near Austerlitz is still a Daguerreotype. In the 1830s, the negative paper made its entrance. Painters and artists kept themselves busy with photography to secure their income. But through investing too much in the new technology many still went bankrupt. (Stichting Nederlands Fotomuseum Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

The development of the negative

This photography of a bridge near Austerlitz is still a Daguerreotype. In the 1830s, the negative paper made its entrance. Painters and artists kept themselves busy with photography to secure their income. But through investing too much in the new technology many still went bankrupt. (Stichting Nederlands Fotomuseum Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

The royal courts were very interested in photography. It did fit well with the need for leaders of countries to relate citizens to them. Portraits, such as of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria of Great Britain on this photograph, illustrates this. Besides royal families, major landmarks such as the Acropolis, the Roman Forum and pyramids were popular to be photographed. This way, the common man also had the chance to see them and feel part of the nation. (Museum Conservation Services a2cda6b9-32c3-aa3b-3d1a-93f56fa760ed, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

The royal courts were very interested in photography. It did fit well with the need for leaders of countries to relate citizens to them. Portraits, such as of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria of Great Britain on this photograph, illustrates this. Besides royal families, major landmarks such as the Acropolis, the Roman Forum and pyramids were popular to be photographed. This way, the common man also had the chance to see them and feel part of the nation. (Museum Conservation Services a2cda6b9-32c3-aa3b-3d1a-93f56fa760ed, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Fox Talbot and the negative

This is a negative of a picture taken by Fox Talbot (1800-1877). Talbot is regarded as the inventor of the negative process in photography. He made multiple prints of one negative possible. Until then, each photo was unique. In 1841 he patented after long experiment the calotype, also called 'talbotype‘, a chemical process to print a negative on paper. Printouts are not sharply delineated. At this time, people also started to retouch images. (The European Library EI-17-BOITE FOL B - n° 3, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Fox Talbot and the negative

This is a negative of a picture taken by Fox Talbot (1800-1877). Talbot is regarded as the inventor of the negative process in photography. He made multiple prints of one negative possible. Until then, each photo was unique. In 1841 he patented after long experiment the calotype, also called 'talbotype‘, a chemical process to print a negative on paper. Printouts are not sharply delineated. At this time, people also started to retouch images. (The European Library EI-17-BOITE FOL B - n° 3, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

collodiumprocedé

Photographers first used a type of salt but quickly switched to protein. This results in more detail. Glass also appears to be less perishable, so from the 1880s onwards glass negatives start to be used. At the time and even now, people are very impressed by the details of the photograph. Colodium ensures that it remains smooth. It collodium process is a photographic process was invented around 1850 by Frederick Scott Archer. This process was the forerunner of the modern gelatin emulsion. Archer replaced the paper carrier by glass and attached to the silver halides by using a collodion layer on this transparent base. Silver halides are compounds between silver and a halide, so fluoride, chloride, bromide or iodide. These compounds, also called silver halide salts are light-sensitive. Therefore, silver halides are widely used in photography. Gelatin ensures that it is ready for use. Photos are thus accessible to a wider audience. (KIK-IRPA, Brussels [KIK-IRPA n° 10155485] AP_10309397, CC BY-NC-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/) [KIK-IRPA n° 10155485]   AP_10309397

collodiumprocedé

Photographers first used a type of salt but quickly switched to protein. This results in more detail. Glass also appears to be less perishable, so from the 1880s onwards glass negatives start to be used. At the time and even now, people are very impressed by the details of the photograph. Colodium ensures that it remains smooth. It collodium process is a photographic process was invented around 1850 by Frederick Scott Archer. This process was the forerunner of the modern gelatin emulsion. Archer replaced the paper carrier by glass and attached to the silver halides by using a collodion layer on this transparent base. Silver halides are compounds between silver and a halide, so fluoride, chloride, bromide or iodide. These compounds, also called silver halide salts are light-sensitive. Therefore, silver halides are widely used in photography. Gelatin ensures that it is ready for use. Photos are thus accessible to a wider audience. (KIK-IRPA, Brussels [KIK-IRPA n° 10155485] AP_10309397, CC BY-NC-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/) [KIK-IRPA n° 10155485]   AP_10309397

Maddox’ silver gelatine print

The 'wet' collodium process was discovered in 1851 by Frederick Scott Archer. The result was that images only needed to be exposed 2 to 3 seconds to light. However, the panels had to be made sensitive to the time of exposure, and then had to be treated immediately. When Maddox (1816-1902) learned that his health was affected by the "wet" vapor of ether, the collodion, he went looking for a replacement for that process. In an article in the British Journal of Photography 1871, he suggested that the sensitive chemicals cadmium bromide and silver nitrate in order to embed with silver bromide forms on a glass plate with a gelatine layer. Eventually Charles Bennett made the first gelatine dry plates that could be sold; quickly, the emulsion could also be coated on celluloid roll film. This process became known as the silver gelatine print. (Ajuntament de Girona 343434, CC BY-NC-ND http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/)

Maddox’ silver gelatine print

The 'wet' collodium process was discovered in 1851 by Frederick Scott Archer. The result was that images only needed to be exposed 2 to 3 seconds to light. However, the panels had to be made sensitive to the time of exposure, and then had to be treated immediately. When Maddox (1816-1902) learned that his health was affected by the "wet" vapor of ether, the collodion, he went looking for a replacement for that process. In an article in the British Journal of Photography 1871, he suggested that the sensitive chemicals cadmium bromide and silver nitrate in order to embed with silver bromide forms on a glass plate with a gelatine layer. Eventually Charles Bennett made the first gelatine dry plates that could be sold; quickly, the emulsion could also be coated on celluloid roll film. This process became known as the silver gelatine print. (Ajuntament de Girona 343434, CC BY-NC-ND http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/)

Photography available for many

The advantages of these dry plates were clear: photographers could use already prepared dry plates instead of preparing their own emulsion in a mobile darkroom. Negatives did not have to be developed immediately. For the first time cameras could also be made small enough to hold in the hand. Photography became available to a large audience from that moment onwards. This is a photograph, created by this method, of the interior of the Cathedral of Vilnius, St. Casimir’s Chapel. (Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie DI 28949, Free access)

Photography available for many

The advantages of these dry plates were clear: photographers could use already prepared dry plates instead of preparing their own emulsion in a mobile darkroom. Negatives did not have to be developed immediately. For the first time cameras could also be made small enough to hold in the hand. Photography became available to a large audience from that moment onwards. This is a photograph, created by this method, of the interior of the Cathedral of Vilnius, St. Casimir’s Chapel. (Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie DI 28949, Free access)

Eastman Dry Plate Company

Photography giant Kodak was founded in 1881 under the name ‘Eastman Dry Plate Company’ by George Eastman. The camera in the photo is of later (1893-1897). (Tekniska Museet TM27985, CC BY-NC-ND http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/)

Eastman Dry Plate Company

Photography giant Kodak was founded in 1881 under the name ‘Eastman Dry Plate Company’ by George Eastman. The camera in the photo is of later (1893-1897). (Tekniska Museet TM27985, CC BY-NC-ND http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/)

Lippmann Process

In 1891 Gabriel Lippmann invented the method of reproducing photographic colour, based on the phenomenon of interference, later known as the Lippmann process. In 1908 he won the Nobel Prize for Physics. On this photograph he stands in his laboratory, looking at a glass plate. (National Library of France Rol, 360 , Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Lippmann Process

In 1891 Gabriel Lippmann invented the method of reproducing photographic colour, based on the phenomenon of interference, later known as the Lippmann process. In 1908 he won the Nobel Prize for Physics. On this photograph he stands in his laboratory, looking at a glass plate. (National Library of France Rol, 360 , Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

The advantage of pictures

This photo seems worthless but there is a message: it is not the artist but the light that has the pencil. The artist wanted to show that, in his opinion, you can photograph all the texture at once with details that can not be reproduced by a painter. A photographer could photograph a haystack, which was difficult to draw, but on a picture you can see all the details. Fascinating was both shadow and detail. People were amazed by such detailed photos. (The European Library Coll. A. Gilles, 45 E6, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

The advantage of pictures

This photo seems worthless but there is a message: it is not the artist but the light that has the pencil. The artist wanted to show that, in his opinion, you can photograph all the texture at once with details that can not be reproduced by a painter. A photographer could photograph a haystack, which was difficult to draw, but on a picture you can see all the details. Fascinating was both shadow and detail. People were amazed by such detailed photos. (The European Library Coll. A. Gilles, 45 E6, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

The postcard

Once something is new and popular it will be produced in large numbers. First there were pictures of people moving because people were amazed by that. Around 1900, the photograph on a postcard caught the attention of the public. The postcard picture was a hype. It could be printed on a large scale. Sending and receiving was possible in one day, which was very fast for the time. It is a kind of early SMS service. However, in 1905, many businesses went bankrupt by overinvestment and this fast brought to an end. (Bibliotek Acyfrowa 09404_Ag_PL_ELocal.xml, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

The postcard

Once something is new and popular it will be produced in large numbers. First there were pictures of people moving because people were amazed by that. Around 1900, the photograph on a postcard caught the attention of the public. The postcard picture was a hype. It could be printed on a large scale. Sending and receiving was possible in one day, which was very fast for the time. It is a kind of early SMS service. However, in 1905, many businesses went bankrupt by overinvestment and this fast brought to an end. (Bibliotek Acyfrowa 09404_Ag_PL_ELocal.xml, Public Domain Marked http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

35mm film

In 1930, 35mm film of negative (made with rolls) make it possible to take pictures consecutively through repeated print. (Wellcome Library, London CC BY-NC-ND http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/)

35mm film

In 1930, 35mm film of negative (made with rolls) make it possible to take pictures consecutively through repeated print. (Wellcome Library, London CC BY-NC-ND http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/)

Photographs in color

Around 1960 it became possible for consumers to take and develop pictures in colour. For a long time there were problems with capturing the colour red, but, from around 1960, the technique was far enough to provide colour images, including red, for the consumer. (Ajuntament de Girona 2048008, CC BY-NC-ND http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/)

Photographs in color

Around 1960 it became possible for consumers to take and develop pictures in colour. For a long time there were problems with capturing the colour red, but, from around 1960, the technique was far enough to provide colour images, including red, for the consumer. (Ajuntament de Girona 2048008, CC BY-NC-ND http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/)

Digital era 1981

The most recent major development in photography is digital photography. Here, the traditional camera that is loaded with films is replaced by a camera with a light-sensitive image sensor. This is the Sony Mavica from 1981. Digital Mechanism and Gear Library - www.dmg-lib.org, dmg:2948025 http://www.dmg-lib.org/dmglib/handler?mcdsc=2948025, CC BY-NC-ND, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/

Digital era 1981

The most recent major development in photography is digital photography. Here, the traditional camera that is loaded with films is replaced by a camera with a light-sensitive image sensor. This is the Sony Mavica from 1981. Digital Mechanism and Gear Library - www.dmg-lib.org, dmg:2948025 http://www.dmg-lib.org/dmglib/handler?mcdsc=2948025, CC BY-NC-ND, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/