Invention of photography (1839)

Invention of photography (1839)

Theinvention of photography in the 19th century will revolutionize the relationship with the image and announce the advent of a new civilization: that of the media. Until then, the preservation of the memory of an event, a scene or a face was the sole talent of painters or sculptors. It's French Nicéphore Niépce who obtained the first photograph in 1826-1827, and ten years later his compatriot Louis daguerre invented the first reliable photography process which was presented to the Academy of Sciences in 1839. Initially reserved for professionals, photography made portable and easy to use became accessible to the greatest number.

Invention and history of photography

Among the many discoveries and inventions of the Arab world around the tenth century, it is worth noting that of the darkroom, an essential element in theinvention of photography. Despite Leonardo da Vinci's precocious idea of ​​fixing the image projected in this dark room, it was not until 1826 that the French Nicéphore Niépce made it concrete thanks to a tin plate covered with a solution of bitumen of Judaea and lavender oil, which he exhibits for eight hours. The invention was quickly perfected by Jacques Daguerre, whose first daguerreotypes were produced in 1837. In 1839, Daguerre fixed a direct positive test and the process was presented in 1839 to the Academy of Sciences by the scholar and deputy François d'Arago and arouses enthusiasm. The rights of the daguerreotype having become free, the invention spread rapidly in France and in the world.

In 1841, the British William Henry Fox Talbot invented the positive negative, which allowed the multiplication of prints. These two discoveries are the culmination of optical research begun in the Italian Renaissance (camera obscura, or "dark room") and chemical studies on the sensitivity to light of silver salts. A camera consists of a dark room and a lens whose operation is inspired by that of the human eye: the diaphragm is adjusted according to the external lighting. A photosensitive film is introduced into the camera, from which the photographer obtains the negatives (the values ​​are reversed compared to reality) which will then be printed on paper, in color or in black and white.

From family portraits to photography for everyone

Despite the progress made, the use of photography is restricted by the exposure time of several tens of minutes. It is the family portraits, taken in the studio, that contribute to the success of photography. Traveling photographers allow everyone to proudly display their portrait on the fireplace, giving birth to a new profession. The technical process is indeed complex and tedious: you have to set up the camera, adjust it, control the exposure and fix the glass plate serving as a negative, then fix the photographic image.

At the end of the 19th century, the American industrialist Georges Eastman democratized the process with the development of film photography. A celluloid film replaces the glass plate, allowing several pictures to be taken. In 1888, the Kodak, equipped with film, could take up to a hundred photos. The portable device is then returned to the manufacturer who develops the images which return them with the device recharged. Amateur photography was born.

Photography has since been used in many fields, from science to media and also in art. Many photographers have marked history, from Nadar to Doisneau, including great reporters such as Capa and Cartier-Bresson, and all those whose photographs constitute a social memory: Brassai ', Boubat ... After 1930, the photography, which has become an art in its own right, explores its own specificities, notably with the works of Strand, Weston, Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray, Rodchenko.

For further

- Photography: History and counter-history, by François Brunet. PUF, 2017.

- The fabulous history of inventions - From mastery of fire to immortality. Dunod, 2018.

- The French Museum of Photography (Bièvres, 91).


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