© Sheila Rosamond
I don’t know about you, but I love photography. There’s just something special about being able to capture a special moment in time with a camera. Your child’s first steps, a sweet 16 party, a wedding, your first glimpse of God’s creative grandeur at the Grand Canyon. Even the more mundane, everyday events. The funny face your pet made or a sweet morning hug between daddy and his baby girl. All these are snap-worthy events, but have you ever stopped to think about where camera technology got its start? Since the latest novel idea I’ve been working on includes a character whose profession is a photographer, I’ve had to do some research, and I thought I’d share my findings with you.
The earliest versions of the camera, the Camera Obscura, was developed in the Middle Ages, somewhere around 1000 A.D. The Camera Obscura was a pinhole camera which projected its image upside-down, but the creator had no way of capturing the image with the device. It wasn’t until 1827 that a Frenchman by the name of Joseph Nicephore Niepce created the first photographic image with the Camera Obscura by coating a metal plate with bitumen and exposing the plate to light. Once the plate was immersed in a solvent, the image magically appeared. This drawbacks to this first photographic invention were that it took eight hours to capture the image on the bitumen-coated plate, and once exposed, the image faded quickly.
|Daguerreotype of Junius Booth,|
father of John Wilkes Booth
Obtained from Library of Congress
Across the next 12 years, another Frenchman, Louis Daguerre, experimented with ways to refine the process. He and Niepce worked together from 1829 until Niepce’s death in 1833. By 1839, Daguerre had created a more effective method of capturing “fixed” images. Using a highly-polished sheet of silver-plated copper, Daguerre coated it in iodine, inserted the sheet into the camera, and exposed it to the image for several minutes. Once the place was bathed in a solution of silver chloride, a lasting image appeared. Daguerre called the captured image a “daguerreotype.” He and Niepce’s son sold the rights to the daguerreotype to the French government that same year, but published a booklet detailing the process so others could duplicate it. The daguerreotype method gained popularity, resulting in photography studios cropping up all over the world.
Obtained from Library of Congress
Next came the calotype, created by Henry Fox Talbot in 1841. The calotype was made by coating paper with a silver salt concoction, which made it sensitive to light. Once inserted in the camera, the light would turn the paper dark, creating a negative of the image. Talbot could then make contact prints, reversing the image to a positive one.
By 1851, an English sculptor, Frederick Scott Archer, created a new photographic technology, this time using a glass plate coated in a sticky collodion solution. This wet plate negative created a much sharper negative image than the earlier paper versions, but because the image had to be developed before the emulsion dried, photographers had to employ the use of portable dark rooms with this process.
A man by the name of Hamilton Smith patented the tintype in 1856. The tintype photographs were created through a very similar process to the wet-plate negative process above, except that they were fixed on an iron plate instead of glass. Another difference between the two was that the tintypes could be taken with a “multiplying” camera, which would create several images on the same sheet. The duplicate images could be cut apart with tinsnips and given to friends and family. The tintype was a quick and inexpensive process that allowed the person being photographed to walk out with a picture within minutes—the original “instant” camera. This type of photograph had the longest period of popularity, lasting from the 1850’s all the way until the 1930’s.
By 1879, photographic technology had advanced again, this time to a dry-plate negative process. Similar to the wet-plate negative above, it employed a glass plate, but instead of the wet emulsion, it used a dry, gelatin-based emulsion that could be put on the glass well ahead of time and stored until needed. Because it was dry, the plate didn’t have to be developed immediately, so photographers no longer needed to bring along the portable dark room. The quick exposure time of the dry plate method led to the invention of hand-held cameras.
It was in 1889 that George Eastman created the cellulose nitrate strips of film that many of us remember using. This film was flexible and could be rolled easily. It was this invention that led to the mass production of cameras. By the the 1940’s, color film was invented. And of course, digital cameras have made the older film versions almost obsolete today.
How far we’ve come, right? So now it’s your turn. Do you have a camera, and if so, what type of camera do you use? Do you prefer to take photos with your cell phone, a simple point-and-shoot, or are do you use a 35mm with the interchangeable lenses? Leave me a message with your email address to be included in a drawing for a 20-page 5x7 photobook featuring various Scripture verses paired with nature photography I've taken.
Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has won the 2012 CWOW Phoenix Rattler, 2012 ACFW First Impressions, and 2013 FCWC contests, all in the historical category. She is also the winner of the 2013 Central Florida ACFW chapter's "Prompt Response" contest. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite--full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenaged son, and four fur children.