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Louis Daguerre

France 1839, Louis Daguerre’s invented his “photographic” process, this heralded a whole new profession ~ The Photographer! Soon in the capitals of France and Great Britain suppliers emerged offering glass lens and the chemicals required for processing the capture of images on glass plates. Attempts at creating an image by using light on to the surface of a material had a long history prior to the Daguerreotype, attempts by Thomas Wedgwood around 1800 were shadowy and too fient, and later the Frenchman Niépce produced clear images but the process was very lengthy, taking many hours exposure.

Within a few years many enthusiastic photographers could be seen in the great cities with their wooden boxes affixed to stout tripods; watches in hand counting off the long exposure times. [minutes] to allow the light entering through the glass lens in the face of the box to etch an image of some static object, say a tree, building or other suitable scene, onto the chemically sensitized glass plate at the back of the box. The process, taking as it did literally minutes to complete, would totally ignore moving objects within the field of view. Thus early photography was limited to the capture of static objects, or where attempting to photograph a subject such as a person, it was necessary to remain totally still during the long exposure. Various contraptions were manufactured to achieve a stationary subject, such as head braces attached to the sitter and fixed to a chair!

Exposure was achieved by removing a lens cap to allow light onto the plate and after a pre-determined time the cap replaced. The plate was retained in a capsule to prevent exposure to light before being developed in a dark room. By the early 1850’s the whole of the civilized world was swept up in the excitement of making still images using the new science/technology of photography. It has been recorded:

By 1853 no fewer than 6,000 neophyte American photographers produced around three million pictures. [source Time Life]

In London you could rent a glasshouse to take photographs and also a dark room for developing them, and London University added Photography to its curriculum in 1856. A leading proponent of the new technology in Great Britain was William Fox Talbot [1800-1877], Photo at the head of this article is by him and believed to be from the earliest surviving negative, taken in 1835. [source Wikipedia] Talbot invented the calotype method which was based on a paper negative and therefore more readily portable than glass negatives.

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