Daguerreotype Photographs and Beyond

Twenty years have passed since last I dipped photographic film/paper into developer, stop, and fixer to produce my own Black and White images which was fun what with my darkroom even briefly venturing into colorizing them.  Today, the process is not as messy as I shoot and download picture to computer courtesy the magical world of digitization, make the necessary corrections or alterations then using quality paper printer out a photograph suitable for display.  Still, the process is time-consuming and requires the same patience as if one were to use the traditional darkroom.  So I thought it would be fun to jump in the way back machine and briefly trace from when photography was born.

The year 1837 Paris, France Louis Daguerre invented what is known as the Daguerreotype picture, a positive made in the camera on a silvered copper plate that looked like a mirror, which required a 10 minute exposure meaning those first pictures consisted of still life, trees (unless a blowing wind), buildings, streets however the process quickly advanced.  In 1841 lenses improved which opened the door to photograph humans but head rests and adjustable tables were necessary support because exposure times were still long thus producing lifeless shots, this method didn’t change until just before the 20th century.  The 1850’s brought on even more change as photographing still life, people, and cities caught on with the collodion wet plate process, ambrotype, tintype, and pictures shot on glass plates.  With each of these clarity improved however, the process was still laborious as photographers needed to carry the darkroom with them to preserve the image.  Then something else happened, in 1884 George Eastman of Rochester, New York, developed (pun intended) film giving the photographer something called freedom that all they had to do was, “…press the button, we do the rest” this the slogan for the Kodak as the whole camera is sent in and when pictures picked up you get a new camera with film already loaded.

In 1901 the Kodak Brownie, named after Canadian illustrator Palmer Cox’s humorous verse books, The Brownies, is introduced to the masses and they spread out far and wide to record outings, family gatherings, cars, etc. without the concern of doing the processing themselves.  Some individuals became intrigued with processing film and pictures but for the most part it was easier and quicker to let the professionals handle this.  My step into photography happened by accident in ninth grade when threatened of being split up with longtime friend Maurice Williams (we’d been in the same classes since the fourth grade) we both signed up for photography but ended going in different directions anyhow, me developing (pun intended) a photography interest and Maurice fading into the background.

Since the Brownie picture-taking grew with the invention of color film and Kodachrome color slides more people could now see life in full color then, the camera improved with bigger lenses and the ability of changing the lens and perspective.  Time marches on cameras soon became automatic and then digital cameras and the popular cellular phone camera (I prefer a digital camera to one in cell phone) and when coupled with a computer the photographer can now “process” pictures at home even alter the image somewhat depending on taste.

So there you have a very brief history of photography and even though the process from image to print has changed over time I still enjoy stalking the outdoors looking for subject matter always keeping the camera close by as you never know when something may pop up.

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