The invention of photography dates back to the nineteenth century. By Aristotle’s time, it was already known that by simply drilling a “small hole” (pinhole) in a dark room (Obscura camera) it was possible to see a mirror image in the white box. Alchemists also knew that the light blackened silver chloride.
The first Photograph
Around 1826, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce succeeded in setting medium quality images on plates that were pewter coated with bitumen of Judea (a kind of natural tar having the property of hardening in the light). This very First “picture” that was taken required a pose for several hours.
This first photograph shows a part of the property of Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes (Saône-et-Loire, France). This shot 16.2 x 20.2 cm is visible at the University of Texas in Austin since Helmut Gernsheim donated it to this institution in 1963. If you look at this picture, you will note the special lighting. Indeed, the installation took many hours (estimated pose between 8 and 10 hours), the sun illuminated the right wall and the left later in the day.
Joseph Nicéphore Niépce died in 1833 and Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre continued process improvement. Discovering the principle of the latent image developing, Daguerre found a way to shorten the exposure time to about ten minutes.
In 1839, he promoted his invention with the scientist and deputy François Arago. Thus, the conventional date for the invention of the photograph is 1839, the date of the presentation by Arago to the Academy of Sciences of Daguerre’s invention : “the Daguerreotype”. This is actually an improvement of the work of Niepce.
The French government acquires it against an annual payment of 6000 francs to Daguerre and 4000 francs to Isidore Niépce’s (the son of Nicephorus), then donated it to “the world.”
Thanks to the daguerreotype, images are obtained after “only” half an hour of installation (when the sky is perfectly clear). This slowness is problematic, the streets of Paris, even at rush hour appear completely empty. Nevertheless, the photography was invented!