The Invention of Photography

Capturing the Light

Who invented photography? The answer isn’t as clear as it might be, since a number of people developed photographic systems in the 1830s and 1840s.

Roger Watson and Helen Rappaport’s Capturing the Light: The Birth of Photography, a True Story of Genius and Rivalry (2013) describes two early participants in the field, Louis Daguerre and Henry Fox Talbot, mentioning Nicéphore Niépce in passing. Daguerre was the first to describe a practical photographic system so I would give him credit, although technically Talbot may have actually been first, but he kept his work a secret. Niépce’s photographic system, which relied on a photoengraved plate, was slow and of limited value so crediting him with the invention seems gratuitous. While not mentioned in Capturing the Light, the Brazilian Hércules Florence probably also deserves some credit, but like Talbot, he failed to publish his invention, and he never achieved achieved commercial success.

For an intriguing look at early photography, read Capturing the Light. This book avoids technical jargon and is well written. It’s even available in paperback!

About Mark Mizen

I have over twenty years professional experience in all aspects of photography and digital imaging. I am Chair of the ISO WG5 TG2 committee responsible for physical properties and durability of imaging material and am currently with HID Global working on systems for security printing for IDs, licenses, and credit cards. Previously, I was Director of Digital Development at Creative Memories from 2009 to 2012 and was responsible for the Creative Memories digital products and services. I also established and directed the Creative Memories Technology Center, which evaluated new products prior to product introduction, assisted with production difficulties, and provided technical information to support product sales.
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