Note that in this PDF some dates are disputable but it gives a good overview of the developments
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- Ancient times: camera obscuras used to form images on walls in darkened rooms; image formation via a pinhole.
- 16th century: brightness and clarity of camera obscuras improved by enlarging the hole inserting a telescope lens. See the results of this improved technology applied to painting through in the work of Canaletto.
- 17th century: camera obscuras are frequent use by artists and made portable in the form of sedan chairs
- 1727: Professor J. Schulze mixes chalk, nitric acid, and silver in a flask; notices darkening on side of flask exposed to sunlight. Accidental creation of the first photo-sensitive compound.
- 1800: Thomas Wedgwood makes “sun pictures” by placing opaque objects on leather treated with silver nitrate; resulting images deteriorated rapidly, however, if displayed under light stronger than from candles.
- 1816: Nicéphore Niépce combines the camera obscura with photosensitive paper.
- 1826: Niépce creates a permanent image.
- 1834: Henry Fox Talbot creates permanent (negative) images using paper soaked in silver chloride and fixed with a salt solution. Talbot created positive images by contact printing onto another sheet of paper.
- 1837: Louis Daguerre creates images on silver-plated copper, coated with silver iodide and “developed” with warmed mercury; Daguerre is awarded a state pension by the French government in exchange for
publication of methods and the rights by other French citizens to use the Daguerreotype process.
- 1841: Talbot patents his process under the name “calotype”.
- 1842: Cyanotype process developed by English scientist and astronomer Sir John Herschel. The process was used by Anna Atkins to create a series of cyanotype limited-edition books that documented ferns and other plant life from her extensive seaweed collection, placing specimens directly onto coated paper and allowing the action of light to create a silhouette effect. By using this photogram process, Anna Atkins is sometimes considered the first female photographer.
- 1851: Frederick Scott Archer, a sculptor in London, improves photographic resolution by spreading a mixture of collodion (nitrated cotton dissolved in ether and alcoohol) and chemicals on sheets of glass. Wet plate collodion photography was much cheaper than daguerreotypes, the negative/positive process permitted unlimited reproductions, and the process was published but not patented.
- 1853: Nadar (Felix Toumachon) opens his portrait studio in Paris
- 1854: Adolphe Disderi develops carte-de-visite photography in Paris, leading to worldwide boom in portrait studios for the next decade
- 1855: beginning of stereoscopic era
- 1855-57: Direct positive images on glass (ambrotypes) and metal (tintypes or ferrotypes) popular in the US.
- 1861: Scottish physicist James Clerk-Maxwell demonstrates a color photography system involving three black and white photographs, each taken through a red, green, or blue filter. The photos were turned
into lantern slides and projected in registration with the same color filters. This is the “color separation” method.
- 1861-65: Mathew Brady and staff (mostly staff) covers the American Civil War, exposing 7000 negatives
- 1868: Ducas de Hauron publishes a book proposing a variety of methods for color photography.
- 1870: center of period in which the US Congress sent photographers out to the West. The most famous images were taken by William Jackson and Tim O’Sullivan.
- 1871: Richard Leach Maddox, an English doctor, proposes the use of an emulsion of gelatin and silver bromide on a glass plate, the “dry plate” process.
- 1877: Edweard Muybridge, born in England as Edward Muggridge, settles “do a horse’s four hooves ever leave the ground at once” bet among rich San Franciscans by time-sequenced photography of Leland Stanford’s horse.
- 1878: Dry plates being manufactured commercially.
- 1880: George Eastman, age 24, sets up Eastman Dry Plate Company in Rochester, New York. First half-tone photograph appears in a daily newspaper, the New York Graphic.
- 1888: first Kodak camera, containing 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
- 1890: Jacob Riis publishes How the Other Half Lives, images of tenentment life in New York City
- 1900: Kodak Brownie box roll-film camera introduced.
- 1902: Alfred Stieglitz organizes “Photo Secessionist” show in New York City
- 1906: Availability of panchromatic black and white film and therefore high quality color separation color photography.
- 1907: first commercial color film, the Autochrome plates, manufactured by Lumiere brothers in France
- 1909: Lewis Hine hired by US National Child Labor Committee to photograph
children working mills.
- 1914: Oscar Barnack, employed by German microscope manufacturer Leitz, develops camera using the modern 24x36mm frame and sprocketed 35mm movie film.
- 1917: Nippon Kogaku K.K., which will eventually become Nikon, established in Tokyo.
- 1921: Man Ray begins making photograms (“rayographs”) by placing objects on photographic paper and exposing the shadow cast by a distant light bulb; Eugene Atget, aged 64, assigned to photograph
the brothels of Paris
- 1924: Leitz markets a derivative of Barnack’s camera commercially as the “Leica”, the first high quality 35mm camera.
- 1925: André Kertész moves from his native Hungary to Paris, where he begins an 11-year project photographing street life
- 1928: Albert Renger-Patzsch publishes The World is Beautiful, close-ups emphasizing the form of natural and man-made objects; Rollei introduces the Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex producing a 6×6 cm imageon rollfilm.
- 1931: development of strobe photography by Harold (“Doc”) Edgerton at MIT
- 1932: inception of Technicolor for movies, where three black and white negatives were made in the same camera under different filters; Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Willard Van Dyke, Edward
Weston, et al, form Group f/64 dedicated to “straight photographic thought and production”.; Henri Cartier-Bresson buys a Leica and begins a 60-year career photographing people; On March 14, George Eastman, aged 77, writes suicide note–“My work is done. Why wait?”–and shoots himself.
- 1933: Brassaï publishes Paris de nuit
- 1934: Fuji Photo Film founded. By 1938, Fuji is making cameras and lenses in addition to film.
- 1935: Farm Security Administration hires Roy Stryker to run a historical section. Stryker would hire Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, et al. to photograph rural hardships over the next six years.
- 1936: development of Kodachrome, the first color multi-layered color film; development of Exakta, pioneering 35mm single-lens reflex (SLR) camera
- World War II:
- development of multi-layer color negative films
- Margaret Bourke-White, Robert Capa, Carl
Mydans, and W. Eugene Smith cover the war for LIFE magazine
- 1947: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, and David Seymour start the photographer-owned Magnum picture agency
- 1948: Hasselblad in Sweden offers its first medium-format SLR for commercial sale; Pentax in Japan introduces the automatic diaphragm
- 1949: East German Zeiss develops the Contax S, first SLR with an unreversed image in a pentaprism viewfinder
- 1955: Edward Steichen curates Family of Man exhibit at New York’s Museum of Modern Art
- 1959: Nikon F introduced.
- 1960: Garry Winogrand begins photographing women on the streets of New York City.
- 1963: first color instant film developed by Polaroid; Instamatic released by Kodak; first purpose-built underwater introduced, the Nikonos
- 1972: 110-format cameras introduced by Kodak with a 13x17mm frame
- 1973: C-41 color negative process introduced, replacing C-22
- 1975: Nicholas Nixon takes his first annual photograph of his wife and her sisters: “The Brown Sisters”
- 1977: Cindy Sherman begins work on Untitled Film Stills, completed in 1980
- 1980: Elsa Dorfman begins making portraits with the 20×24″ Polaroid
- 1982: Sony demonstrates Mavica “still video” camera
- 1983: Kodak introduces disk camera, using an 8x11mm frame (the same as in the Minox spy camera)
- 1985: Minolta markets the world’s first autofocus SLR system (called “Maxxum” in
- 1992: Kodak introduces PhotoCD