ArticlesBlog

Before Photography – Photographic Processes Series – Chapter 1 of 12

Before Photography – Photographic Processes Series – Chapter 1 of 12


The invention of photography was not
one discovery that led to what we understand as
photography today. There are winners and losers in the
evolution of photography. It’s so fascinating at every different
point in its history The way that we familiarize ourselves with the world around us just fundamentally
changed with photography. The silhouette is really the essence. That’s the essence of a person’s soul and people knew that. The term photography in Greek is light drawing. So when you’re drawing with light,
you can do it with chemicals but before photography you would
look at the shadow you would trace the shadow. The problem with drawing a shadow
with someone is that if you put a person in a room and you put a candle on one side of that
person and it casts a shadow it’s a very big shadow. So the biggest problem is how do you
take a very big shadow and make it into a little tiny shadow. So there are tools that they used. The Pantograph machine that has these
intersecting bars with a pencil and you could trace the large object and it would make it into a very small object. There was an inventor by the name of
Chretien, who invented a device that would trace the shadow of a person through a series of levers. It would then reduce the picture at the same time. And this instrument is called a Physionotrace. The thing about the silhouette
and the Physionotrace that made them different from a painted portrait
was that they were mechanical. They were much more objective portraits of individuals. Unlike paintings, which were very subjective. Camera Obscura means dark room.
That’s all it is. It’s a room with no light in it. And if you have a room with no light and you poke a little hole in the side of
that room and you let light in from the outside, by miracle you’ll have
an image projected upside down turned around, but in color and moving
on the other side of the wall. It’s a phenomena that people have been
aware of for thousands and thousands of years. It’s easy to do. It’s very often the first project that is taught
in photography classes just as a way to get people to understand
the simplicity of what the camera is. Later improvements of the camera obscura included putting a lens in the hole so that
the light could be focused so that you would have have a brighter
and more focused image that would be projected on the wall. But for photography the camera is
essentially a box. The early experimenters of photography all knew that they wanted to make images
in that box. The story of the invention of photography builds on experiment after experiment. Johann Heinrich Schulze is a German professor. And in the case of Schulze’s experiment
what you have is a glass jar and it’s filled with chalk. There’s some nitric acid and there’s some silver. It’s sparingly sensitive to light. So you have this jar with a barrier around
the outside and when the light goes through the stencil it then darkens the chalk that is facing the
glass on the inside of the jar. And this is where Schulze contributes to the
evolution of photography is that he’s proving that this is done by
light, and not by heat. Thomas Wedgwood was the son of the
famous potter, Josiah Wedgwood. The signature of the Wedgwood line was the decoration that was made of silhouettes. It’s no surprise that one of the Wedgwoods
would think that the light that makes a silhouette could also
make an image by the action of light. Wedgwood is experimenting with silver nitrate. And he’s brushing silver nitrate onto sheets
of paper and onto pieces of stretched white leather. He was making images by doing contact
printing of photograms. He was putting an object on top of the
sensitive paper or leather. and when you put these in the sun it’s very easy to see the effect of light. You can see the paper darkening. So it makes sense he would want to make
pictures in a camera obscura. After all, camera obscuras have been
used for years to make an image on a ground glass
so you could do drawings. So you could see the effect of light coming
into a camera obscura and producing an image. And yet he had no real success with his process. He wasn’t able to make those images last. He wasn’t able to fix the image. Those images were fleeting. They disappeared after a certain amount of time. Talbot, Daguerre, Niepce all know about
the work of Wedgwood because Humphry Davy, his friend had written an account of his work that was
published in 1802. It was a springboard from which other people could then do
their own experiments.

Comments (21)

  1. A great brief historical review of this medium.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing. Got goosebumps after seeing them.

  3. What a beautifull series !!! Thank you Georges Eastman House.

  4. Awesome. are you willing to accept spanish subtitles for this beautiful piece?

  5. Beautifully created series. Thank you for making and sharing these videos.

  6. Extraordinary work that brings us an easy and convenient way to different processes that led to the history of photography

  7. Is this available for purchase or download?

  8. The pre-history of photography is one of my passion, especially the camera obscura. I do have a question about the image of Thomas Wedgwood that is used. We have a profile portrait of Wedgwood that came from the estate of a descendant of Thomas Wedgwood's brother that looks nothing like the man pictured in this video. What is the provenance of the image used here?

  9. Fantastic series. Thank you!

  10. This is very helpful for my current studies. Thank you.

  11. HOLA, SABEN SI EXISTE SUBTITULADO??

  12. "proving that it's done by light and not by heat" but is he… ultraviolet light does increase temperatures.

  13. Their are those who succeed and those who didn't, but they made a contribution even though they didn't succeed .what you call the losers are as imprint as the winners cuase if it wasn't for those who didn't; succeed ,you would not have those who have succeed..You are nothing but Darwinist. George Eastman who was liberal towards the populace and his workers would turn over his grave with your attitude

  14. Warning Eastman website is having server problems.

  15. Thank you for these videos

  16. Thank you for these videos

  17. gracias por la ayuda

  18. Where was the the first camera obscura discovered

  19. explained so clearly
    thanks!

Comment here