Heliographs – A history of photography

It was a lot of fun and learning to produce this short history of photography. Since childhood I was fascinated with the magic of photography and how cameras work. As years go by the fascination continues and the pace of innovation accelerates, making this topic a current source of evolution and revolution.

Enhancing some very old photographs with all kinds of editing tools to make them appear clear was a challenge. Although in the end they came out 100 times better than when I found them.

Enjoy the show,

History and Background

Heliograph (Greek: helios, meaning “sun”, and graphein, meaning “write”)

In 1816, Nicephore Niepce invented usable photography. Although he wasn’t the first man in the world to capture images, he was the first to capture a permanent photographic image that actually seemed to last.

In 1826, Frenchman Joseph-Nicephore Niepce took a picture (heliograph, as he called it) of a barn. The image, the result of an eight-hour exposure, was the world’s first photograph. Little more than ten years later, his associate Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre devised a way to permanently reproduce an image, and his picture—a daguerreotype—needed just twenty minutes’ exposure. A practical process of photography was born.

Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre was born near Paris, France in 1787. The illusionistic painter Pierre Prevost asked him to join his team of panorama-painting artists when he was just twenty years old. He was a gifted illusionist in terms of his ability to design sets that dazzled his audiences. An artist who wanted his work to be as real as possible, Daguerre created amazingly life-like scenes right in the theater. These designs, which were able to simulate the passage of day into night, changes in weather, and even give viewers the feel of motion, Daguerre later coined as “dioramas,” or “dramas of light.” By 1825, Daguerre was a successful creator, proprietor, and promoter of a successful illusionistic theater in Paris that specialized in these dioramas.

Daguerre’s illusions depended heavily on the accurate representation of detail and perspective on a large-scale. So, like many others of his day, he used the camera obscura* as a tool to help him trace two dimensionally what his eyes saw in three. Daguerre explained that the magic of his dioramas resulted from his use of light in the scenes. He claimed to have discovered a system of painting that could transform the appearance of an object by switching between reflected and refracted light, as well as by changing the color of the light that fell upon it.

Eadweard Muybridge was born Edward James Muggeridge in Kingston-upon-Thames in 1830. He traveled to the United States in 1852 with the notion of someday changing his name to use the Saxon spelling (he eventually did by 1867). In June of 1878, Muybridge made his first successful serial photographs of fast motion at Stanford’s California stock farm. The photographs were of a horse running and another horse trotting; they were developed on the spot so as not to be accused of doctoring the images.

The Kodak “Brownie” camera made its debut at the turn of the twentieth century and sold for one dollar. One hundred thousand of them were purchased during the first year alone. The Brownie helped to put photography into the hands of amateurs and allowed the middle class to take their own “snapshots” as well.

Source: The Franklin Institute


One response to “Heliographs – A history of photography

  1. Norbert Barnich

    Dear Leo
    A great video on the history of photography and some captivating examples of cameras too.
    Very enjoyable and instructive.
    And by the way, I had made something similar in Powerpoint some time ago, to be found on Slideshare.
    I also made a show on the last Kodachrome film
    and a recent one on Polaroid-s revival and Lady Gaga.

    I hope that you you might finbd them to your liking.
    Best regards for now


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