From the Industrial Revolution to World War I, C. 1850–1914

Early Photography

Who invented photography?

The process of photography, in which an image is fixed by recording light through chemical (and now digital) means, was not invented by a single individual. The concept had been around for thousands of years in the form of the camera obscura, a small, dark box with a tiny hole on one side that allows light to enter. The light reveals an image from outside the box, which is either reflected onto a surface with a small mirror, or passes through onto a wall. A large-scale camera obscura can even be made in a darkened room. Artists used the camera obscura to view small details in a scene. Scholars hypothesize that Johannes Vermeer and other eighteenth-century artists may have used such a device to achieve such heightened detail in their work. The problem for artists, however, was to take the image produced by the camera obscura and make it permanent. The first person to do this was Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre, a painter.


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