The invention of photography took not only graphic design, but the way people perceive life to a completely different realm. Our minds perceive the world around us and we then immediately have this desire to capture it, to document it, and to share what we see. I think that as visual learners, both graphic designers and artists in general have this longing in them even more so than non-artists. This is why it does not come as a surprise that the invention of photography began with illustrators. The word photography itself came from the Greek words photos graphs, which literally means, "light drawing". Joseph Niepce, the inventor who first produced a photographic image, began as a lithographic printer. He originally made images with the help of his son’s drawing skills and transferring them on to paper. Once his son was drafted in the army, Niepce began to search for alternate ways to make a photograph by using light and transferring methods. He would expose images all day, and use lavender oil to create these hazy pictures. Once Niepce teamed up with a painter/performer, by the name of Louis Jacques Daguerre, more materials were added to the process and people lavished at the rich accuracy of the new images. While this progress was being made in France, William Henry Fox Talbot had the same desire to bring his sketches to life. He was incredibly frustrated by not being able to capture exactly what he saw in the landscapes and plants that he was attempting to re-create. Because of this, he began to use light, leaf paper, and glass to expose the images of leafs and flowers onto paper. Talbot later combined these micro-studies with the discoveries of Daguerre’s and began to release to the public the beginning of the “Art of Photogenic Drawing,” as he called it. Once the first developments of the camera had been made, a scientist (astronomer and chemist) came to rescue some of the technical issues and take the recreation of what we see, even further. Sir John Herschel used chemicals to halt the action of light, in order to fix the images. Herschel shared his discovery with Talbot, and together they took off with more improvements. By using negatives/positives and increased light sensitivity, Talbot was able to eventually make an unlimited number of prints, which because of their ability to be resized and reproduced were extremely desirable. However, because of Talbots methods were difficult to spread throughout without more contacts, Daguerre’s process, which created far sharper photos, became most popular.
The only thing that seemed to be missing from these discoveries at this point, was the lack of availability. A wet-plate method involving negatives and reflection, led to the discovery of the dry-plate system. This in turn was what led George Eastmen, an American dry-plate manufacturer, to create his Kodak camera.
The availability and development of pictures made people see life in a different light. One’s memory was captured not just by a thought, but by an image that could be shared to other’s memory. The perception of oneself, others, events, landscapes, etc. was engraved on this sheet of paper, and all of a sudden time was reborn. People adored this phenomenon, but the artists of this world were forever changed. Some flourished because they were now able to use this new concept as a way of art that never seemed plausible beforehand. But even so, some of the talented painters and drawers felt threatened by this invention because of what it took away from their previously so desperately needed talents. However you decide to look at photography, it dramatically changed history and the art world forever in more ways than many of us will ever understand.
Meggs, Philip B. “The Prolouge to Graphic Design.” A History of Graphic Design. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998. 4+. Print.