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View through the Lens: The History of Photography 1839 - c. 1896 “ Pinafore Perfect ” A “Conversation Piece” “For His Mother” The Vanishing Lamplighter “Couple with the Spirit of an Old Family Doctor who died Around 1880.” British Traveling Tour of Photographers: c. 1880s

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photography inception
Photography: Inception
  • The Camera Obscura (Latin for Dark room)
  • Dark box or room with a hole in one end that produced an inverted image on the opposite wall.
  • Principle known by thinkers as early as Aristotle (c. 300 BC).

Camera Obscura, Reinerus Gemma-Frisius, 1544. Gernsheim, H., The Origins of Photography.

camera obscura
Camera Obscura
  • 1515--Da Vinci also describes the camera obscura.
  • By the mid-seventeenth century a portable camera obscura is well developed:
  • Consisted of two boxes, one sliding inside the other. On one a lens is fitted which casts an image on the translucent surface at the back of the other.

Camera Obscura, c. 1820

isaac newton the nature of light
Isaac Newton: “The Nature of Light”
  • 1666: Isaac Newton divides sunlight with a prism; discovers that white light is itself a combination of seven distinct colors.
  • Newton believes these colors are particles which bounce off objects and are perceived in the eye by seven different color receptors.

Newton’s Color Circle

canaletto and the camera obscura
Canaletto and the Camera Obscura
  • 1750:Canaletto uses the camera obscura as an aid to his painting in Venice.

The box-shaped apparatus similar to a camera, with a shuttered box with a small lens in one side. Bright light from the scene enters, forming an image on a screen. A mirror puts the reflection right side up on the drawing surface. The artist sat in front of a complex architectural scene, and was able to easily trace the perspectives.

nic phore ni pce 1765 1833
Nicéphore Niépce (1765-1833)
  • 1816:In France the Niépce brothers begin experiments to create images using light-sensitive materials.
  • 1826: Nicéphore Niépce (1765-1833) a French doctor, produces the world's first photograph using pewter plates in a camera obscura. Exposure time approx. eight hours.
l j m daguerre 1787 1851
L.J.M. Daguerre (1787-1851)
  • 1835:Niépce and L.J.M. Daguerre produce world's first daguerreotype photograph.
  • The image in a daguerreotype is laterally inverted (as in a mirror); the product is fragile.
  • Each image is unique; no copies can be made.
  • Daguerreotypes became obsolete within 20 years of their invention.
william henry fox talbot 1800 1877
William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877)
  • 1833: William Henry Fox Talbot begins work that leads to 1839 announcement by the British Royal Academy: the discovery of how to capture images on paper by the action of light—patents the process as the “calyotype.”

The lattice window in the South Gallery, Lacock Abbey, August 1835.

daguerreotype photograph
Daguerreotype Photograph

One of the few surviving visual documents of working women in the United States before the Civil War.

john william draper 1811 1882
John William Draper (1811-1882)
  • American scientist, philosopher, and historian, chief contribution to abstract science was research in radiant energy.
  • Draper’s research in the effect of light upon chemicals led him to take up photography.
  • He was said to be the first in New York to use Daguerre’s process, announced in 1839, improving it so much that by December of that year he made his first satisfactory photographic portrait. A picture he took (1840) of his sister is the oldest surviving photographic portrait. Draper also made (1839–40) the first photographs of the moon.
john william draper 1811 188221
John William Draper (1811-1882)

Draper. 1839–40, First Photographs of the Moon.

1850s cartes de visites
1850s - Cartes de visites
  • Throughout the 1850s, paper, lenses, and cameras improved.
  • These advancements made it easier for the general public to become involved in photography.
  • Tintypes and cartes de visites: small pictures on iron frames or paper. Inexpensive to make, became popular ways to carry pictures of scenic views, families, and individuals--some of the first snapshots.

William Henry Jackson / Denver, Colo. Nast, Charles A. C. 1880 or 1881

1855 beginning of the stereoscopic era
1855: Beginning of the Stereoscopic Era
  • Stereoviews were like televisions for the 19th century. People relaxed in their parlors and were transported around the country and world with a box full of stereos and a hand-held or tabletop viewer.
  • Enjoying stereoviews was a family activity shared by all ages.
1855 beginning of the stereoscopic era24
1855: Beginning of the Stereoscopic Era

“Peeking into the Stereoviewer”

1855 beginning of the stereoscopic era25
1855: Beginning of the Stereoscopic Era

Underwood & Underwood. 8288 - Looking N. up Fifth Ave. past Flatiron Bldg. and Madison Sq., N.Y. (From the David Spahr Collection. NFS).

ambrotypes and tintypes
Ambrotypes and Tintypes
  • 1855-57: Direct positive images on glass (ambrotypes) and metal (tintypes or ferrotypes) popular in the U.S.

“Couple at Niagara Falls:” Attributed to Henry Hollister Canadian, Niagara Falls, Canada, 1860s Ambrotype

1861 65 mathew brady
1861-65: Mathew Brady
  • Brady and staff (mostly staff) cover the American Civil War, exposing 7000 negatives.

Matthew Brady: General Ulysses S. Grant and Staff

1861 65 mathew brady28
1861-65: Mathew Brady

Matthew Brady: Amputation being performed in a hospital tent, Gettysburg, July 1863

1861 65 mathew brady29
1861-65: Mathew Brady

1863 Battle of Gettysburg lasted three days, total approx. 50,000 casualties. Photograph of dead soldiers on the battlefield taken by Mathew Brady. This picture increased public awareness of the brutality of the conflict.

dry plates
Dry Plates
  • 1871: Richard Leach Maddox, an English doctor, proposes use of an emulsion of gelatin and silver bromide on a glass plate, the "dry plate" process.
  • 1878: Dry plates being manufactured commercially.

Front of Casino, Monte Carlo, c 1910. Horace W. Nicholls (1867-1941). Dry plate negative, © RPS, 1999

george eastman
George Eastman
  • 1880: George Eastman, age 24, established Eastman Dry Plate Company in Rochester, NY. First half-tone photograph appears in a daily newspaper, the New York Graphic.

“A Yosemite Road” George Eastman, 1903

george eastman32
George Eastman
  • 1888: first Kodak camera developed, contained 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.

George Eastman holding a Kodak No. 2 camera on board the U.S.S. Gallia en route to Europe in 1890. Photographer, Frederick Church, was Eastman's patent attorney and friend. These early Kodak cameras took round pictures.

how the other half lives
How the Other Half Lives
  • 1890: Jacob Riis publishes How the Other Half Lives, images of tenement life in New York City.

Jacob A. Riis, Bandit's Roost, 1888

lumiere brothers
Lumiere Brothers
  • 1907: first commercial color film, the Autochrome plates, manufactured by Lumiere brothers in France.
  • Battle of Bentonville:
  • Boursnell, Robert (England). “Couple with the Spirit of an Old Family Doctor who died Around 1880.” Collodion print, 4 x 5.75 inches. January 3, 1893.
  • Canaletto: Views of Venice:
  • A 'Conversation Piece‘ Quarter-plate daguerreotype (3.25 x 4.25 inches). David Feigenbaum Collection of Southworth & Hawes. Illustrated in The Daguerreian Annual 1998 (The Daguerreian Society: 1999) page 213. Private Collection.
  • The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition.  2001.
  • George Eastman:
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda. Image from the Princeton University Library Department of Rare Books and Special Collections,
  • Fox Talbot Museum:
  • History of Photography Timeline:
  • Jenks, William: sixth-plate, unknown maker.
  • Matthew Brady Photographs:
  • Music Selection: "The Entertainer," composer Scott Joplin.
  • New York City's Times Square became the focus of celebrations and sudden affections in the immediate aftermath of World War II.
  • Nineteenth-Century Photography: A Timeline
  • Opening Gallery: Young Girl:
  • Royal Photographic Society:
  • Stereoviews of the Nineteenth Century:h ttp://
  • Toward Los Angeles, California. 1937. Photographer: Dorothea Lange
  • The Vanishing Lamplighter: