"You don't take a Photograph, You make it." -Ansel Adams Written by: Rose Leichtle

The digital shift is nothing new to the graphics communications industry, regardless of whether in terms of print, design or photography. Members of the cross-media graphics and photography industry have been adapting to the digital era for quite a few years now. The million-dollar question is: is this change to digital for better or for worse? There are limits to every aspect of the photo industry, but has this digital shift pushed us to becoming closer to being limitless? Ansel Adams, a nineteenth century American photographer and environmentalist, once said “You do not take a photograph. You make it.” Over the years, this has been proven true by the advancements in photography development from film to digital. Although photographers can still create wonderful pieces of art with film photography, there are proven limits within this art form. The adapted capturing and editing capabilities of the digital era, however, make it possible for modern-day photographers to become nearly limitless.”

The term photography dates back to 1839 coined by John F.W. Herschel. The word photograph is Greek in origin, derived from the word photo meaning “light” and graphein meaning “to draw”. According to Webster’s Dictionary, photography is “the process of a chemical action of light or other forms of radiant energy in which produces art images of objects on sensitized surfaces.”

In 1827 Joseph Nicephore Niepce created the first known photograph – an image of the courtyard outside his window – with a camera obscura otherwise known as a pinhole image. To capture the image, the scene was projected onto a pewter plate coated with bitumen inside a darkened box with a curved lens. This process was known as heliography and was greatly limited in terms of efficiency. The process required nearly eight hours of exposure to obtain an image.

Twelve years later in 1839 came the next big advancement in the photographing industry: Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, a professional scene painter for the theatre, invented the daguerreotype. Daguerre found the new photographic method by experimenting with ways of fixing images taken with the camera obscura. Daguerre replaced pewter plates with silver-plated sheets of copper to produce positive images. In doing so, he discovered that an exposed plate could be developed with the warmed mercury vapor, taking only thirty to sixty minutes’ tops, rather than hours on end. The results were not permanent as the image would darken more when exposed to light, but the effects could be corrected with a table salt solution to remove the unexposed silver iodide. This discovery, a large shift in the painting and drawing field, was just as much questioned as it was admired, much like the digital shift today. People were disappointed with the daguerreotype’s limits, such as lack of color and sharpness, fuzziness over the entire image as well as blurriness of moving objects. However, this did not stop artisans from experimenting in hopes of developing something even more time-efficient and with better end results.

The next major development, called calotype or talbotype, was founded by William Henry Talbot. Through experimentation with daguerreotype, Talbot was able to discover a technique that used silver chloride coated paper, that would create a negative image with the camera obscura. Talbot also discovered that gallic acid could be used to develop the negative image, reducing exposure time down to one minute. The paper image could then be touched up or corrected with sodium hyposulfite. Although this process was much less time consuming, it was still lacking color as well as clarity.

The next image capturing tool from here was the stereograph, first introduced by Sir Charles Wheatstone and later improved in 1849 by Sir David Brewster. The stereograph has the ability to make two images of the same subject. It does so by featuring two lenses, six centimeters apart, to replicate the human eyes. The positive prints would then be mounted side by side causing the human brain to join the two images together to form an impression of three-dimensionality, finally giving some depth to images created.

In 1851 Frederick Scott Archer, an English sculptor, introduced the wet collodion process which was a method 20 times faster than previous methods used for making glass negatives which could then be printed on paper. Although this was a major development in the photograph printing world, it had one distinct disadvantage: the plate had to be sensitized straightaway prior to exposure, and then exposed and processed for print while the coating was still wet. Due to the inconvenience of the wet collodion process the dry plate was introduced in 1970 so that plates could be equipped beforehand as well as developed long after exposure.

From here, Richard Leach Maddox, an English physician, proposed hanging the silver bromide plates in a gelatin emulsion. The development then led to the factory-produced dry plates coated with gelatin and containing silver salts in 1878. This discovery is claimed to be a noteworthy milestone toward the development of modern day photography. The gelatin plates were nearly sixty times more perceptive then anything created before. This enabled cameras to become handheld and unrestricted from the tripod, which would lead to the creation of a large assortment of small hand-held cameras to become obtainable.

Due to the adaptability of cameras, it was time for film to make the same shift. However, this did not happen until 1889 by George Eastman whom invented the roll of film. Eastman was able to make this flexible and resilient film by coating a cellulose nitrate film base with emulsion, which made taking more than one picture at a time before developing film possible for photographers.

This development is what then made the manufactured box camera a reality. Called the ‘Kodak’ camera which had a fixed focus lens and a single shutter speed. A limitation to this camera was that it was a single time use meaning it then needed to be sent back to the Kodak company in Rochester to have the film developed. At which point the camera was thrown out during the development process and the developed images were sent back to the photographer.

That is when in 1900 Eastman discovered the camera named the brownie. This camera was the same simple box camera much like the Kodak but played a very significant role in camera history. The Brownie had the capability to have day-light reloadable film. This meant users could load their own film in to the brownie camera and hold onto the device itself while the film was processed. This was a large development in photography history as this camera is what made taking pictures possible for anyone. It was easily mass produced, simple to use and low in cost, making this a very marketable discovery for Eastman. The drawback to the brownie camera is that the pictures were extremely low quality.

This is what lead to the invention of the 35mm film camera otherwise known as the candid camera by Oskar Barnack in 1913. Thirty-Five mm film was originally for motion pictures until Barnak had the sense of cutting the presentation of negatives and then enlarging the photographs after they had been exposed. This allowed camera manufacturers to create and mass produce the ‘Tourist Multiple’ which was a compact camera available to the public that would take this trimmed film to create higher quality enlarge prints after the complete development process.

Although Eastman Kodak was praised for his previous discoveries, this did not stop him from continuing to explore and experiment. Although cameras were improving and the image processing was making advancements, there was a still a missing component, and this was color. In 1935 Eastman created his initial version of color film known as Kodachrome film. The limitations to this film was that it was a two color film and was only available in a limited variety of formats. Kodak continued to work on ensuring good quality images for photographers and in 1941 introduced kodacolor negative film. This was the first marketable negative color film, more considerably the first “true color film.” Although this meant that colored images were achievable to everyone the processing form still had many limitations.

The next largest advancement in cameras as well as photo printing forms was the invention of the polaroid camera otherwise known as the instant camera in 1948 by Edwin Land. The polaroid camera was the first camera in history that could take and print an image all in under one minute. Land made this possible by creating two individual positive and negative film rolls, which allowed an image to be developed within a camera and printed immediately. According to the article “The History and Magic of Instant Photography” by Michael Archambault on petapixel.com, “Polaroid and Edwin Land continued to improve upon the idea of instant photography with six different types of film.” It was not until 1963 that a colored film was available for polaroid and able to produce colored film. This now meant that the photo industry had instant color images at their fingertips.

Now that the photo industry had a respectable grasp on producing color images it was time to revisit the limitation of the clarity of images. It was in 1978 when the company Konica produced the world’s first autofocus camera. This point-and-shoot camera was called Jasupin. Although the the clarity had significantly been improved on, photographers were still impatient and wanted to have instant gratification of their images.

In 1984, Sony established their first digital still camera. According to “History of Cameras” on photodoto.com, “This camera recorded images into a mini disk and then put them into a video reader. Images could be displayed to a television monitor or color printer.” This meant the editing process for photography and videography was a lot more feasible as it could be done on a computer which is how many photo editing techniques used today came about.

This was a very significant turning point in the photographing industry as it seemed to photographers that all main issues had been resolved; color, clarity, processing, flexibility, and editing. It was from here on out that cameras, image processing techniques and editing techniques needed to continue to grow with technology as a whole, much like the printing industry. According to Encyclopedia Britannica’s article on History of Photography “As a means of visual communication and expression, photography has distinct aesthetic capabilities.” This explanation is proven to be true over the years of development with photography. This as well as the development of photography relates back to Ansel Adams famous quote “You do not take a photograph. You make it.” meaning that if we simply just took photographs we would be completely limited by all the limitations proven in early photography. Instead photographers made their images what they wanted them to be by improving their means of photography and as a result have made the photography industry nearly completely limitless. This is a wonderful example as to why the world should not fear the technological shift and instead embrace the digital era.

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