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Where would we be without photography?

managing editor
Elaine Weeks snaps a Kodak Brownie Fiesta Rv camera circa 1960s

Hard to imagine a world without photographs. Let alone movies, videos, or t.v. Since this issue is comprised mostly of cool old photos, I took a Kodak moment to reflect on photography’s origins.

What better place to look than the internet? I googled the phrase "history of photography" and was instantly connected with 2,950,001 links. Fortunately, I only needed to look at a few of them to find what I needed.

Bet you didn’t know that the word photography is derived from the Greek words for light and writing. Must be where that phrase comes from, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Photography was not invented earlier than the 1830s because that is when two distinct scientific processes were put together. The first of these processes was optical. The Camera Obscura (dark room) had been in existence for at least four hundred years. There is a drawing, dated 1519, of a Camera Obscura by Leonardo da Vinci; about this same period its use as an aid to drawing was being advocated.

The second process was chemical. For hundreds of years before photography was invented, people had been aware, for example, that some colours are bleached in the sun, but they had made little distinction between heat, air and light. The first successful picture was produced in summer 1827 by Nicéphore Niépce, using material that hardened on exposure to light. This picture required an exposure of eight hours. (Can you imagine having to sit still that long! I guess he didn’t take any pictures of his kids.)

On January 4, 1829 Niépce agreed to go into partnership with Louis Daguerre. Niépce died four years later, but Daguerre continued to experiment. Soon he discovered a way to develop photographic plates, a process which greatly reduced the exposure time from eight hours to half an hour. He also discovered that an image could be made permanent by immersing it in salt.

At that time some artists saw in photography a threat to their livelihood and some even prophesied that painting would cease to exist!

Here are some noteworthy milestones:

1880: George Eastman, age 24, sets up Eastman Dry Plate Company in Rochester, New York. First half-tone photograph appears in a daily newspaper, the New York Graphic.

1890: Jacob Riis publishes “How the Other Half Lives”, images of tenament life in New York City.

1900: Kodak Brownie box roll-film camera introduced.

1932: George Eastman, aged 77, writes suicide note – "My work is done. Why wait?" – and shoots himself.

Fast forward

1983: Kodak introduces disk camera, using an 8x11mm frame (the same as in the Minox spy camera)

1986: Fuji introduces the disposable camera

Mid-90s: The digital camera is introduced. (I’m guessing here as for some reason I couldn’t find out the exact year.) We purchased our digital camera in 1999 – we can literally take quality photos up to deadline without having to run out and process them. We’ve taken about 13,000 pictures to date with our digital camera.

How far we’ve come since 1827!

The TIMES Online Message Board

If you haven’t checked out our Message Board on our web site, make sure you have a look soon. We set it up in January as a way for TIMES readers to chat with each other, post memories and promote community events.

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Thought for the Month – The Value of Time

To realize the value of one minute, ask a person who has missed the train, bus or plane.

To realize the value of one-second, ask a person who has survived an accident.

To realize the value of one millisecond, ask the person who has won a silver medal in the Olympics.
(from one of the numerous anonymous e.mails I get every month)

Click here to view our 2nd Annual Photo Gallery!

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