Photography 101 A Brief History of the Photograph

In these modern times, cameras are everywhere. Whether its a tiny digital you keep in your pocket or a medium format monstrosity you use for a hobby, cameras have become an integral part of human life. With that in mind, let’s take a ride down memory lane and look at where modern photography came from and what it’s meant to our civilization.

One of the most amazing aspects about photography is how much we depend upon them to record our history and tell a story, considering the fact that photography is still relatively new. The first permanent photo was created as recently as 1825 using pewter plates and a substance called “bitumen,” and later photographs were printed on glass. Paper didnt actually become common until around 1888 thanks to the innovations of George Eastman.

In 1901, the Kodak Brownie camera was first introduced to the public. This was the first time that photography was so easily accessible to the public in regards to cost and ease of use. It was during this period of time that film developing really took off as an industry. It’s incredible to think that something like getting film developed or emailing digital images, which we take for granted today, was a completely new concept just 100 years ago. The modern SLR camera has only been around for about 80 years and during that time frame it’s construction hasn’t changed much.

While black and white photography hasnt changed much since the early 1900s, color film has experienced dramatic advancements over this brief period of time. Though color photography had always been pursued by early photographers, color film and printing didn’t become widely accessible until well into the 20th century. Kodaks “Kodachrome” was introduced around 1935, but it would be a while before color film became the norm. One interesting thing about color film advancement is looking at how black and white film is still in wide use despite the introduction of color photographs. How many people do you know that still have a black and white television? Probably none.

Of course, no discussion of photo history would be complete without discussing the digital revolution. This technology, which feels so familiar to us, has only been in wide use for about 15 years. The first “megapixel” sensor wasn’t even created until around 1986, and now it’s one of the most common technical words in our vocabulary. Though digital photography hasnt changed much about the way we take pictures (point and shoot), it has had an immeasurable impact on our ability to share our photographs with the world.

Photography is one of the primary ways in which we document our lives. A picture can be as simple as remembering a birthday party or as important as increasing awareness about a conflict on the other side of the world. They help add emotion and weight to the words of reporters as well as preserve our living history for generations to come. Every photo we take is a living reminder of our relationships, achievements, strengths and weaknesses.