Photography is so omnipresent now -whether in science, advertising, current events media, propaganda, or just our own snaps – the is tough to imagine a civilization without it. And yet 200 years back it no exist. In the duration between the two cg-tower.coms experiments to be underway both in France and also in England, and by the time’s nephew ended up being Emperor of France in 1852, photography was producing its own little revolution.

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What is photography?

The indigenous “photography” literally way “drawing v light”. The word was supposedly first coined by the brother scientist Sir man Herschel in 1839 indigenous the Greek indigenous phos, (genitive: phōtós) an interpretation “light”, and graphê an interpretation “drawing or writing”. The an innovation which resulted in the development of photography essentially combines two distinct sciences: optics – the convergence of irradiate rays to kind an photo inside a camera – and chemistry, to permit that picture to be captured and also recorded permanently ~ above a photosensitive (light-sensitive) surface.

The first camera?

Already throughout the Renaissance (several century earlier) artist had begun to use a type of primitive “camera” called a camera obscura (a latin term definition literally “dark room” indigenous which is acquired our modern-day word “camera”) to more accurately copy nature by means of drawing. This naturally-occurring optical phenomenon had already been observed because that hundreds (even thousands) of years: If a brightly lit scene or thing is inserted opposite a hole reduced into the next of a darkened room (room or container), the rays of light reflected turn off that object, passing v the hole, converge into one upside-down picture which deserve to be checked out to it is in “projected” top top the surface ar inside the container. However the camera obscura only permitted for the viewing of that image in genuine time. In stimulate to document it permanently, artists still had to trace the photo by hand inside the camera.

Early photographic experiments

Around 1800, in England, cutting board Wedgwood (son of Josiah Wedgwood, the famous potter) controlled to produce inside a camera obscura a black and also white negative image on paper or white leather treated with silver nitrate, a white chemistry which was known to darken as soon as exposed to light. However, the was no able to resolve the photo permanently due to the fact that the lighter components of the image additionally became dark once looked in ~ in the irradiate for much more than a couple of minutes. His discovery was report in a scholarly journal in 1802 by a chemist Humphry Davy and also translated right into French.

The first photograph

Enhanced version of the photo Nicéphore Niépce obtained from the home window in Le Gras 1826/7 (See the initial plate here)

Then, in 1816, (when had actually just arrived at St Helena), a Frenchman, Nicéphore Nièpce, prospered in capturing small camera images on paper treated through silver chloride (another chemical sensitive to light). However, prefer Wedgwood, the was no yet able come fix and preserve this images.

So, he began experimenting with various other light-sensitive substances, and also in 1822, Nièpce created a procedure he called “heliography” (again, utilizing Greek words, this time an interpretation “sun drawing”, native helios and also graphê). And also in 1826/7, Nièpce succeeded in making the earliest enduring camera photograph. It represented a check out from a home window at Le Gras (his hometown in Burgundy, France), captured on a pewter key coated in bitumen diluted in lavender oil. The exposure time was probably several days.

The daguerreotype – the first commercial success

Daguerreotype of Louis Daguerre in 1844 by Jean-Baptiste Sabatier-Blot

A couple of years later, Nièpce went into partnership v Louis Daguerre, and also together they boosted the heliograph process, substituting a much more light-sensitive resin and also improving post-exposure treatment. After ~ Nièpce died in 1833, Daguerre emerged a an approach in i m sorry a silver-coated copper plate fumed v iodine vapour developed silver iodide when exposed to irradiate in the camera. He made a significant breakthrough when he found that a “latent” (almost invisible) image obtained from a quick exposure could be additional developed and also made visible by exposing it to mercury fumes: in this way exposure time (which previously were several hours) could be decreased to a couple of minutes. ~ above 7 January 1839, Daguerre’s discovery was presented at a meeting of the French Academy of Sciences, and due to the prominence of the discovery, the French government decided to provide Daguerre a life-time stipend (salary) in exchange for making the an approach freely easily accessible to whoever wanted to use it, rather of patenting it.

The daguerreotype, as Daguerre’s innovation was named, was an immediate success, giving a fairly inexpensive and accurate way of representing scenes and also faces i beg your pardon previously had actually to be drawn or painted through hand. Within a few years, photographic studios had popped up almost everywhere Paris and indeed across the world, together the up-and-coming middle classes all wanted to have actually their portraits taken. It is claimed that photographic device was taken to St Helena to photograph I’s body as soon as it was exhumed in 1840, however that the material was damaged and also did no work.


At the very same time the Daguerre to be perfecting his process, an Englishman, wilhelm Fox Talbot, had actually in 1835 thrived in producing negative photographic photos using a method similar come Nièpce’s early on experiments, and which forced a lengthy exposure time (at least an hour). After reading around Daguerre’s discovery, Talbot perfected a an approach whereby a file negative could be exposed for just a minute or two, producing a “latent” image which could then be chemically “developed out” and also made visible. The result translucent negative, in spite of being less comprehensive than the daguerreotype, had the advantage that it might be offered to make multiple optimistic copies. Talbot published his results, which ended up being known together a “talbotype” or an ext usually “calotype” (from the Greek kalos, an interpretation “beautiful” and tupos definition “impression”) in 1841, and this came to be the prototype for the negative-positive printing process which would remain the communication of analog photographic reproduction transparent the 19th and also 20th centuries until the creation of digital photography.

Have a look at a video clip of the calotype process.

Criticism that the new medium

Honoré Daumier: the most practical position to attain a pretty portrait with a daguérreotype, 1847

Back in France over there was but some resistance to the new technology, specifically from artists that may have actually feared the photographers would put them the end of business! few of them, such together the satirical cartoonist Honoré Daumier, didn’t hesitate come ridicule the many successful photographers and their clients. The poet and art doubter Baudelaire observed in photography the gratification of modern-day society’s natural materialistic and narcissistic tendencies (he would have actually hated the selfie!): “The foul society rushed favor a single Narcissus come contemplate that is trivial photo on the metal ”.

Artist-photographers and also innovators

However, some artists, see the new medium’s potential because that creativity, in reality turned come photography themselves. One of them was Gustave Le Gray, a artist who set up his very own portrait studios whereby he not only photographed friends, family and notable client he likewise taught photographic an approach to various other photographers and even invented new techniques. In 1848, he establish that using wax to paper negatives make them an ext receptive to detail. Then in 1850 he designed a glass an unfavorable process known as “wet collodion” (which was perfected by Frederick Scott Archer). This method, which detailed more detailed images 보다 the calotype however could it is in reproduced unequal the Daguerreotype, seemed to incorporate the best of both worlds.

Imperial patronage the the new medium

Gustave Le Gray, Prince-President, 1852

It to be Gustave Le Gray who was the very first official photographer come a French head the state – Prince-President Bonaparte, (nephew of I) who went ~ above to come to be Emperor in 1852. Like other monarchs, such as Queen Victoria, conveniently realised that photography detailed the means to existing himself and his family to his subjects as real human beings. Photographs could be reproduced in big numbers and in various formats (from pocket-sized “visiting cards” come special-edition framed prints i m sorry imitated timeless painted portraits).

Scientific missions

But the brand-new medium was not restricted to the rewarding activity that portraiture. Photographers were soon in demand for documenting every kinds of topics for scientific purposes. III himself initiated number of of this commissions such together making precise documentary photos of historic structures all over France the were in require of repair (known together the “Mission Héliographique”) or report on the new military camp ordered by III in ~ Chalôns. The Crimean battle of 1853-1856 i beg your pardon the Russian realm lost versus an alliance between France, Britain, the ottoman Empire and also Sardinia to be the first to be recorded photographically.

The beginning of push photography

Thibault, The Barricade in rue Saint-Maur-Popincourt prior to the assault by general Lamoricière’s troops, 1848

Before the development of photography, current events and also news were reported principally via the composed word or periodically by engraved copies of drawings or paintings. It was not till 1848 that a photo of a existing event – the barricade of the Rue Saint Maur (25-26 June), component of the recurring tensions complying with the 1848 change and the declaration of the second French Republic – was reproduced (about two weeks after the event!) together an sculpture in an illustrated magazine. After 1860, magazines would certainly explicitly cite when an engraving to be made native a photograph, and, through implication, lend weight to the supposed authenticity the the scene represented.

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Photographic understanding into history

The realism of photography add to a unique intuitive dimension to our knowledge of the second French Empire. We deserve to look right into the faces of the protagonists, the imperial family, various other personalities. We deserve to also notification what they made decision to show and what they chose not to, simply as ns had carefully organised his public picture when commissioning artist to make paints of himself and also his exploits.

Why not have actually a look at at part painted portraits that I and also compare then through those main photographic representations of his nephew, III…