The First Photograph

 
by Jerry Burchfield, The Great Picture in Hangar #115 El Toro Marine Corps Base, Irvine, CA, 2006.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan Vermeer, Girl Reading a Letter at Window, 1657 - 1659.

 

Vermeer's Camera website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rentesses of the Old Men's Alms House
Frans Hals, Regentesses of the
Old Men's Alms House
, 1664.
Jan Vermeer, Woman Holding
a Balance
, c. 1664.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

San Francisco Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura in San Francisco behind The Cliff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photography = light writing
Three things needed to create a photograph:
1.
Optical device that can control light
2.
Chemical process that can reproduce the effects of light on a surface
3.
Chemical process that can fix light (the image) permanently
Eventually, a means of producing multiples of the image becomes desirable
Sunlight Through Trees at Dawn, 2006

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Chemical Reproduction of the Effects of Light

 

construction paper and photo exposed to sun for thirty years

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1800 Thomas Wedgwood is first known inventor to attempt
to record the effects of light with a camera obscura
"sun pictures"
 
  • Placed objects on leather or paper sensitized with silver nitrate
cyanotype
  • Quickly turned shades of gray when exposed to light
  • Realized that the similar reaction would happen if paper placed against the inverted projection inside a camera obscura
 
  • Wedgwood could not permanently fix the image - the silhouettes had to be viewed with minimal light andstored in a light tight environment
 
  • Although none of Wedgwood's sun pictures survive, Anna Atkins's later cyanotype images provide an example of
    what such an image would look like
 
Anna Atkins and Anne Dixon. Cyanotype photogram of wood horsetail from the 1853 book Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Ferns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why were so many inventors of the late 1800s interested in developing photographic technology?

 

Heliographic plate

Joseph Nicephore Niepce, Heliographic plate, 1825.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daumier, Third Class Carriage, 1864.
Gustave Courbet, The Stone Breakers, 1849 - 1850.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Industrial Revolution

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photography = light writing
Three things needed to create a photograph:
1.
Optical device that can control light
2.
Chemical process that can reproduce the effects of light on a surface
3.
Chemical process that can fix light (the image) permanently
Eventually, a means of producing multiples of the image becomes desirable
Sunlight Through Trees at Dawn, 2006

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. The Chemical Fix

 

Portrait of Joseph Nicephore Niepce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lithographic negative and positive print

 

The Lithographic Process

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1816
Niepce produces first "heliographs"
Images quickly disappear because the light sensitivity of his chemicals is never stopped
1822
Niepce discovers that bitumen of judea bleaches and hardens when exposed to light (light sensitivity stops because the substance hardens)
 
bitumen of Judea = form of asphalt, used by etchers to coat metal plates before drawing upon them with a stylus
Niepce makes paper of a lithographic print transparent by coating with oil
Places semi-transparent print onto glass plate coated with bitumen of judea
Laid the plate in sun for several hours
Exposed bitumen hardened, soft bitumen washed away
Creating permanent image transfer using light

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bitumen of Judea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isaac Briot, Portrait of Cardinal d'Amboise,
c. 1650.  Engraving
Nicephore Niepce, Copy of Engraving of
Cardinal d'Amboise, 1826. Heliograph.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1826 Niepce begins experimenting with pewter plates

 
Coated pewter plate with bitumen of judea
Placed plate inside camera obscura sitting on a window sill
Estimated exposure time of 8 to 10 hours,
possibly as long as 20 hours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Joseph Nicephore Niepce, View from His Window at Le Gras,
c. 1826. Heliograph.
Re-photographed with silver gelatin in the 1950s.

 

 

Niepce's original image