The 19th century was a transformative period in the history of photography. With the invention of the daguerreotype in 1839, photography became a widely accessible medium for capturing and preserving images. The daguerreotype process, invented by Louis Daguerre and Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, was the first practical method for producing a photographic image.
It involved exposing a polished silver-plated sheet of copper to iodine vapor, which created a light-sensitive surface. The plate was then exposed in a camera for several minutes and developed using mercury vapor. The resulting image was a highly detailed, one-of-a-kind photograph. As the 19th century progressed, photography continued to evolve and improve. The invention of the wet plate collodion process in 1851 made photography more portable and allowed for faster exposure times. This process, invented by Frederick Scott Archer, involved coating a glass plate with a light-sensitive solution of collodion and silver nitrate.
The plate was then exposed in a camera and developed while still wet. This process was widely adopted by photographers and used to produce a wide range of images, including portraits, landscapes, and documentary photographs. In addition to the technological advancements in photography, the 19th century also saw the rise of professional photographers. Photographers such as Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner used the new technology to document the American Civil War, creating powerful and historically significant images.
Other photographers, such as Julia Margaret Cameron and Lewis Carroll, used the medium to create striking and expressive portraits. In the later part of the century, the invention of the dry plate process and the celluloid film by George Eastman in 1884, made photography even more convenient and accessible. His company, Kodak, marketed the first simple box camera, the "Kodak", that came pre-loaded with a 100-exposure roll of film, and sent back to the factory for processing, printing and reloading.
This was a game changer, making photography available to the masses. As a result of these developments, photography became an increasingly important medium for art, documentation, and personal expression. Today, the photographs produced during the 19th century continue to be highly valued for their historical significance, artistic merit, and technical excellence.