Written by Nikita Tiwari, a 19-year old student
The history of photography has many players in it – meaning that there are many people along the chain who contributed to the invention. Although Nicéphore Niépce is popularly credited with the discovery, he was not the first person to think of the idea, or even experiment with it – though he was the first who managed to fix an image that was captured with a camera.
Sometime in the year 1717, a German professor named Johann Heinrich Schulze experimented with some chemicals and found that a certain mixture (of chalk, nitric acid and silver) could be darkened by sunlight. This was an important discovery for the invention of photography.
Around 1800, an English inventor called Thomas Wedgwood made an attempt to camera images in a permanent form. He was not successful at doing so. However, his experiments did produce what are called photograms – which is a photographic image that is made without a camera. It is made by placing any object directly on any light-sensitive material (like photographic paper) and then exposing it to light. But, he could not find a way to make these images permanent, or fix them.
In 1820, French innovator Nicéphore Niépce managed to fix an image that was captured with a camera. He was the first person who was able to do this and is thus known as the inventor of photography. But, if it was not for the earlier inventors, Niepce would not have been able to do what he did.
So, what did Niepce do?
Niépce was successful in developing something called developed heliography – which is a specific photographic process. Helio in Greek means “sun” and graphein means writing (many older words have their root words in Latin or Greek). He basically found a way to fix the darkened impressions that the earlier inventors had made, and make them permanent.
This was something that a French artist called Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre had been looking for. He had developed a camera, which was a wooden box with a lens at one end that cast an image onto a frosted sheet of glass at the other, and was looking for a way to capture the images he saw in his camera. He too became known as one of the fathers of photography.
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