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Eleven inflection points that marked the history of photography

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Eleven inflection points that marked the history of photography
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A long time ago we reviewed what photography has contributed to the evolution of humanity, we even talk about the dangers that have faced, but this time we have thought of looking back to dive into their own history. Thus, we have identified eleven milestones that have marked the history of photography, those moments that supposed a point and separate or changed the way of understanding this visual art and, in some cases, also changed our society.

The first photograph

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The first photo of the story.

As you know, the invention of photography as such was achieved thanks to a process that took time and in which many people participated (including a Spanish). From the discovery of the camera obscura until the beginning of the XIX century, specifically the year 1826 when Joseph Nicéphore Niépce managed to fix an image of the exterior patio of his house on a pewter plaque covered with bitumen, which was called heliography .

This image, and others taken from the same site and with the same technique, are considered the first photographs in history, which is why Niépce is considered the “father of photography” and of course the first turning point of this art, whose history can be considered to have begun at this time (about 190 years ago).

The Daguerreotype

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Louis Daguerre portrayed by a daguerreotype.

We said that you can consider that the story was born with the first photograph but officially the date is 1839 (specifically on August 19, with which the photograph is 178 years old right now), year in which the French government bought the patent of the daguerreotype to its inventor, Louis Daguerre.

Because if Niépce remains for history as the one who managed to fix the first photograph, the first camera in history would be the daguerreotype, developed by Daguerre from the work of the previous one and with the idea of ​​finding a new process that would shorten the incredibly long exposure what was needed to get an image.

For this, Daguerre came up with silver-coated copper plates instead of the pewter-coated plates used by Niépce. These shorter exposure times resulted in a very subtle image, but after going through a chemical process, Daguerre discovered that he could achieve images with much greater definition.

Paper is born sensitive to light

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View of Gerona to the calotype.

As you are already seeing, those first years were very intense for this art. So much so that just a few weeks after Louis Daguerre publicly announced the daguerreotype, a British scientist named Henry Fox Talbot announced a new system he had devised and that was not based on metal plates, but on paper sensitive to light. It was the birth of the negative-positive process thanks to the calotype.

Talbot had been working with the idea for many years, in fact he considers himself the author of the first photobook in history, but it was not until the late 1930s when he discovered, by accident, the correct chemical mixture to get a negative that could later be used to make several positives.

The first war photographer

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Soldiers in the Crimean War.

After its birth and for many years, photography was considered rather a scientific curiosity with little more than experimental utility. But little by little, as they were standardized improving the necessary processes, their use began to spread. An important moment was 1855 , when the photographer Roger Fenton traveled to the Crimea to document the events of the war that was taking place there.

In this way, the first war photographer in history was born, and with it we could say that the custom of using photography to document the events that occurred throughout the planet. Those first photographers did not have it easy, because the process to obtain the images was still very laborious and not only required a huge camera but also a mobile laboratory. For those same limitations, Fenton did not photograph the soldiers in full battle, since it was still necessary to make long exposures, so he had to limit himself to landscapes and portraits of the participating soldiers.

The first Kodak is launched

Milestones History Photography 06So they announced the first Kodak that went on the market

Kodak is undoubtedly one of the names most commonly associated with the history of photography. And it is not surprising because of the company founded by George Eastman came, around 1888, the first camera aimed at the general public that popularized with the slogan “You just press the button, we do the rest” .

Those cameras seem archaic now (and the results of the first models were a few pictures of circular format), but certainly were a revolution for this art to allow anyone to take pictures without knowing anything about the long processes that still They were required to obtain the photos. The user limited himself to exposing the photos and sending the camera to the laboratory so that it would take care of the development and deliver the finished photos.

The birth of photojournalism

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An image of the Boer wars.

If Roger Fenton was the first war photographer and returned from the Crimea with images that, whether due to technical limitations or style, were not particularly aggressive, Reinhold Thiele was a follower who took a rather different look. This photographer of German origin moved to London where he worked for the London Stereoscopic Company, a company dedicated to capture stereoscopic images that in those years was a pioneer sending photographers around the world to fatten their library of images.

Of course, what Thiele highlighted was his coverage of the second part of the War of the Boers that England waged against the Dutch settlers in South Africa between 1880 and 1881. Sent by the London Daily Graphic, some of the images sent directly they were discarded due to the harshness of what they showed (neither more nor less than the carnage that was taking place in that war). But for history is that way of documenting events in a realistic way, so Thiele is considered one of the fathers of photojournalism (which years later would have his golden age).

The 35 mm format is standardized

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Image of the first Leica. Photo of the exhibition ‘With the eyes open. One hundred years of Leica photography

Although the first film roll dates back many years before (when Kodak launched its first camera in 1888), the true milestone for the history of photography was when the 35mm format was massively popular , back in the 20th Century.

And the merit here is from Oskar Barnack, a German engineer and amateur photographer who, as we told you about this exhibition, thought about developing a small and handy machine, which would allow several shots to be taken at once and be fast, just like that were not the cameras of that time.

In 1913 he created a prototype of a fixed camera that used film in roll of 35 mm (that had arisen in 1889 half between Kodak, that was the one who patented it, and Thomas Alva Edison to whom the idea of ​​adding the lateral perforations is attributed to him), and in 1925 he presented the first camera under the Leica brand, making photography take a 180 degree turn. And, from then on, it was much easier to take pictures anywhere with a very small camera.

Instant photography is born

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A Polaroid camera model 201.

As we told you recently, instant photography is fashionable, but its origins go back to the 30s of the last century. Just when the little daughter of Edwin Land, a scientist who had invented the polarizing filter, asked his father why he could not see the photo he had just made.

That was the germ of the idea to create the instant camera, which Land managed to create, as a first prototype, four years later. This is how Polaroid came about in 1938, and ten years later the first instant camera was launched.

Magnum Photos is created

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Some photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson in an exhibition.

What we know today as the Magnum Agency dates back to 1947 when one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century, Henri Cartier-Bresson, decided to create it together with several fellow photographers (including the equally famous Robert Capa).

With this began the work of what is considered the most influential photo agency that has passed some of the most important photographers in history and in whose catalog are many of the images that have marked the evolution of photography.

Digital photo revolutionizes the industry

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Steven Sasson posing next to the first digital camera.

We have to go back to the 70s to know the germ of digital photography, undoubtedly an important milestone in the history of photography. Specifically, the first digital camera dates from 1975 when Steven Sasson, an engineer from Kodak (once again) built an electronic device that was capable of capturing still images through a CDD (which had been invented six years earlier).

That prototype weighed about three kilos and only took black and white photos with a resolution (“stratospheric”) of 0.01 megapixels that it kept on a magnetic tape. However, that was the beginning of a revolution in which we are still immersed today.

The iPhone is launched

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It is clear that Apple’s mobile phone was not the first, that before there were many others and that they also had their own camera, but the arrival of the first generation of the iPhone, in 2007, we can consider it as a turning point for the current popularization of photography among the masses at never-known levels (and which has increased thanks to the influence of social networks).

That first iPhone had a camera (back) of only two megapixels , but its tactile interface (which premiered this model revolutionizing more if possible the telephony sector) was the starting point of what we know today, thanks to simple devices to use , that can be carried everywhere in your pocket and that even offer the possibility of editing the images in situvia applications.

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So, as you can see, to say that photography has evolved a lot is to fall short . The best way to check it visually is to look at how the cameras have changed in these nearly 200 years through this infographic from Visual.ly(which we already talked about here ) and that we thought was ideal to finish this article.

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