Culture, Featured

The Evolution Of Photography

Nmesoma Okwudili


May 3, 2023

Photography combines the art and science of using light to capture images. It has been a popular medium for over a century and has undergone numerous changes. Advances in technology, shifting cultural attitudes, and the emergence of new techniques and styles have all contributed to the evolution of photography.

The camera obscura, invented in ancient Greece, was the first form of photography. A camera obscura was a dimly lit room or box with a small opening on one side. Light would enter the hole and project an upside-down image of the world onto the box’s or room’s opposite wall. Artists used the camera obscura as a tool for drawing and painting because it allowed them to accurately capture the perspective and proportions of their subjects.

In 1826, Joseph Nicephorus Niépce invented photography. He immortalised his courtyard with a camera obscura and bitumen of Judea, a photosensitive substance. The image, however, was hazy and required an eight-hour exposure, rendering it unusable for practical purposes.

Louis Daguerre invented the daguerreotype in 1839, which was a photographic process that produced highly detailed, sharp images. A silver-coated copper plate was exposed to iodine vapour, resulting in a light-sensitive surface. The plate was then exposed to light, and the image was created with mercury vapour. The daguerreotype was popular in the mid-nineteenth century, but it was costly and time-consuming, making it a luxury for the wealthy.

Fredrick Scott invented the wet plate collodion process in the 1850s. A glass plate was coated with a sticky substance called collodion, which was then sensitised with silver nitrate. The plate was then photographed and developed with an iron salt solution. Wet plate collodion allowed for shorter exposure times and clearer images than daguerreotypes.

When the dry plate method was developed in the 1870s, photography became even more widely available to the general public. In this experiment, a glass plate coated with a light-sensitive emulsion was used. It can be made ahead of time and saved for later use. Photographers could work more quickly and effectively thanks to the dry plate process because they were no longer required to prepare their plates on the spot.

The introduction of the Kodak camera in 1888 further revolutionised photography. The Kodak camera was a small, light device that came with a roll of film already loaded inside. After taking photos, the user would return the entire camera to Kodak, who would develop the film, make prints, and reload the camera for the user. Because it eliminated the need for darkroom equipment and expertise, this made photography even more accessible to the general public.

Photography became more widely accepted as a legitimate art form in the early twentieth century. Photographers like Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen began experimenting with creative techniques and styles like pictorialism, which aimed to create photographs that looked like paintings. They also contributed to the advancement of photography as a fine art form by exhibiting their work in galleries and museums.

With the introduction of the 35mm camera in the 1920s and 1930s, photography underwent another revolution. The 35mm camera was small and portable, making it simple for photographers to capture high-quality images. Photojournalists used it extensively to capture images of news events and to document life in the cities and towns of the time.

The mid-twentieth century was a watershed moment in the evolution of photography. After decades of dominance by black-and-white photography, colour photography began to gain popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. With the introduction of colour film, photographers were able to capture a wider range of tones and hues, giving photographic images a new level of vibrancy and realism.

Ansel Adams was a well-known photographer during the mid-20s. Adams, a well-known photographer of the spectacular black-and-white landscapes of the American West, contributed to the development of photography as a fine art. His photographs were extremely detailed, displaying a mastery of photographic techniques such as exposure and contrast.

The New York School of photography emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, led by photographers such as Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, and Irving Penn. The New York School rejected the traditional photographic approach of creating highly composed and polished images in favour of capturing the raw, spontaneous moments of everyday life. Their photographs were frequently gritty and unflinching, revealing the beauty in the ordinary.

During the 1970s and 1980s, photography began to focus more on social and political issues. Photographers like Mary Ellen Mark, Nan Goldin, and Sebastio Salgado documented the struggles of marginalised communities like the homeless and working poor. Their striking images frequently served as a call to action for social change.

Digital photography emerged as a viable alternative to traditional film photography in the 1980s and 1990s. Although the first digital camera was invented in 1975, it was not until the late 1980s and early 1990s that digital cameras gained widespread acceptance. Digital cameras have several advantages over film cameras, such as instant feedback on exposure and composition, the ability to shoot and store a large number of images, and the ability to manipulate images using software.

With the introduction of digital photography came the emergence of new styles and techniques. Photographers began experimenting with new image manipulation techniques like layering and compositing, as well as using digital software to create surreal and otherworldly images. The rise of social media platforms such as Instagram has also resulted in a new emphasis on online image sharing and curation.

Photography has evolved and adapted to new technologies and changing cultural attitudes in the twenty-first century. The proliferation of smartphone cameras has resulted in the democratisation of photography, with millions of people around the world taking and sharing images on a daily basis. Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat have also altered how we consume and share images, emphasising visual storytelling and the creation of a curated online identity.

At the same time, traditional film photography has seen a resurgence in popularity, with many photographers embracing analogue photography’s distinct look and feel. The popularity of instant film cameras like the Fujifilm Instax and the Polaroid has also rekindled interest in the tactile experience of making physical prints.

Photography has also become more diverse and inclusive in recent years. Women, people of colour, and LGBTQ+ individuals have all made significant contributions to the field, challenging traditional notions of who can be a photographer and what subjects are worthy of photographic attention.Photography’s evolution has been marked by numerous benefits that make it a valuable tool for personal expression, communication, and documentation. One of the most significant advantages of photography is its ability to preserve memories, allowing people to capture important moments and revisit them later.

Photography is also useful for artistic expression, communication, and documentation, making it a versatile and valuable medium. Photography, whether used for personal enjoyment or as a professional tool, provides a number of benefits that make it a powerful form of visual art and communication.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles