History of Photography

Events In 500 B.C.

500 BC -  Mo Ti (China) : Creates the first pinhole camera.

Events In 300 B.C.

330 B.C. - Aristotle (Greece) : Observed a solar eclipse projected onto the ground as it shined through a small opening created by the leaves of a tree.


Events in the 1400s

1490 - Leonardo Da Vinci (Italy) : Writes the earliest surviving description of a camera obscura.


Events in the 1500s

1550 Girolamo Cardano (Italy) : In his book, De Subtilitate, Cardano mentions biconvex glass (i.e. curved on both sides, thickest in the middle) making the camera obscura image sharper.

1568 Daniele Barbaro (Italy) : Wrote "La Pratica Della Perspettiva", which describes adding a diaphragm to the lens of a camera obscura to control both the amount of light passing through a lens and the depth of field.

1589 Giambattista della Porta (Italy) : Magia Naturalis is published. In this Renaissance-era best-seller, della Porta becomes the first to discuss the optical principles that were later used in the development of the SLR (Single Lens Reflex camera), as well as the telescope.

Events in the 1600s

1611 Johannes Kepler (Germany) : The famed astronomer designs a camera obscura made up of a collapsible tent - arguably creating the first portable camera.

1614 Angelo Sala (Italy) : Records the darkening effects of silver nitrate when exposed to sunlight.

Events in the 1700s

1727 Professor J. Schulze : Professor J. Schulze mixes chalk, nitric acid, and silver in a flask; notices darkening on the side of the flask exposed to sunlight. This event becomes the accidental creation of the first photo-sensitive compound.

1765 Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (France) : Born Joseph, who loved lithography but couldn't draw, invented the process by which a projected image could be affixed to light-sensitive material. By the age of 53, the major technical elements were present in his work: camera, biconvex lens, and diaphragm. He was able to produce a sharp negative onto silver chloride and make it permanent (i.e. it didn't fade immediately) enough to mail to his brother. (d. 1833)

1771 Thomas Wedgwood (England) : Born His experiments proved that chemically transferring images of objects and pictures (as opposed to manually or mechanically doing so) with the aid of light, could be achieved. Wedgwood used silver nitrate on white paper or leather. The only drawback to this process was that the image was not permanent and faded to black if exposed to light any further. (d. 1805)

1787 Louis Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (France) Born

Building on Niépce's work, Daguerre was able to produce the first permanent positive image made from nature, thus creating the Daguerreotype. (d. 1851)

1796 Johann Alois Senefelder (Germany) : Invents lithography


Events in the 1800s

1800 Thomas Wedgwood : The first image created using a chemical process and focused light is made by Thomas Wedgwood. The image is highly unstable and deteriorates rapidly.

1807 William Hyde Wollaston (England) : Invents the "Camera Lucida." The device looks like a spyglass and peering through it combines the subject and the drawing surface in the same view.

1815 Julia Margaret Cameron (England) Born : Known for her romantic portraits of prominent people of the Victorian Era. (d.1879)

1821 Alexander Gardner (Scotland) Born : Emigrating to the US and settling in New York in 1856, Gardner becomes employed by famed photographer Matthew Brady, and becomes an expert in the then-new collodion (wet-plate) process. When the Civil War breaks out, Gardner is sent into the field and produces some of the first modern war photos. (d. 1882)

1822 Mathew Brady (USA) Born : He and his staff (including Alexander Gardner) cover the American Civil War, exposing 7000 negative plates and revealing, with new frankness, the horrors of war. A major contributor to American History, he photographed, with one exception, every President of the United States from John Quincy Adams to William McKinley, the sixth to the twenty-fifth Presidents. (d. 1896)

1824 First Permanent Image (France) : While trying to create a lithographic image, Joseph Niépce made the first "permanent" image using light-sensitive material and dubbed the process heliography. The earliest surviving photograph, an image of a nearby rooftop, takes somewhere between 8 and 20 hours to expose.

1831 James Clerk Maxwell (Scotland) Born : A Scottish physicist, he first demonstrated a color photography system involving three black and white photographs, each taken through a red, green, or blue filter. The photos were turned into lantern slides and projected in registration with the same color filters. This is the "color separation" method. (d. 1879)

1834 William Henry Fox Talbot (England) : Invents the "salted paper print", a paper-based technique for creating positive prints from negatives.

1839 Daguerreotype Introduced : In 1839 the Daguerreotype was introduced to the public, becoming the first publicly available photographic process for creating permanent positive images. The Daguerreotype is a positive only process allowing no reproduction of the picture developed with toxic mercury vapor. The daguerreotype brings about the creation of modern portrait photography. However, the extremely delicate nature of the image makes the handling of daguerreotypes nearly impossible!

1839 John Herschel (France) : Invented method of sensitizing glass with silver halides and makes the first glass plate negative. Coins the term "photography" and is the first to apply the terms "negative" and “positive" to photography.

1843 Ann Cooke (England) : First woman to open a photographic portrait studio.

1846 Carl Zeiss AG (Germany) : First opened as an optics workshop, Carl Zeiss started his business, and soon thereafter began making microscopes. First working under the brand name ZEISS. In 1928 Zeiss acquired Hensoldt AG, producing binoculars and riflescopes. In 1973 Zeiss and Yashica entered into licensing agreements to produce the high-quality 35mm camera series, Contax.

1849 Jacob Riis (Denmark) Born : Riis pioneers photojournalism using images of slums and tenements in New York to effect social change

1850 Jane Wigley (England) : First to use a prism inserted into the camera to reverse the inverted Daguerreotype. (precursor of the TTL viewfinder.)

1851 Collodion (wet-plate) process introduced : A great leap beyond the Daguerreotype and calotype, the collodion process delivers fine details and allows for the production of multiple prints. The collodion process became the premiere photographic method in the U.S. Civil War.

1854 George Eastman Born (USA) : Developed dry plates, film with flexible backing, roll holders for the flexible film. Goes on to found Eastman Kodak, which will become the most prolific producer of photographic materials in the world. (d. 1932)

1855 Stereoscopic Era : The beginning of the stereoscopic era, providing affordable home entertainment to the masses with unique 3-D images. The stereoscopic era unofficially ends at the beginning of the 20th century.

1855 Direct Positive Images : Direct positive images on glass (ambrotypes) and metal (tintypes or ferrotypes) become popular in the U.S. Surviving direct positives are today seen as sought-after relics of a bygone era.

1857 Eugène Atget (France) Born : Born an orphan, by 1914 he gained recognition in Paris as an acclaimed art photographer, photographing the city of Paris and its inhabitants. By the time of his death in 1927, he had left 2000 8x10 glass plate negatives, and over 10,000 prints. (d. 1927)

1860 ADOX (Germany) : Using Adox as a brand name, Dr. Carl Schleussner, forms the world's first photographic materials manufacturing company. Dr. Carl Schleussner and Wilhelm Röntgen, who discovered X-rays, work together to make the first X-ray plate. Schleussner soon introduced cameras and 35mm black and white film under the ADOX brand name. In 1962, American manufacturer DuPont was sold rights to the Adox trademark by the Schleussner family. Soon thereafter the DuPont sold the Adox film technology to Fotokemika in Croatia. In the late 1990s and into the early 2000s for a brief moment the subsidiary that owned the Adox trademark was bought by Agfa in Germany. The Adox trademark gets removed from the patent registry and in 2003 it is once again owned by a German company, Fotoimpex.

1862 Paul Sabatier (France) : Describes Solarization in a French journal. He is later given credit for the process but it was H. De la Blanchere who first published his observations of the effect in 1859.

1863 Julia Margaret Cameron : This accomplished and renowned British Photographer receives her first camera.

1864 Alfred Stieglitz (United States) : Alfred Stieglitz was born. With his gallery "An American Place" in New York, he transforms photography from a mechanical process to an art form on par with painting & sculpting. (d. 1946)

1869 Charles Beseler Company (USA) : Charles Beseler founded his namesake company, beginning with the manufacturing and sales of inhalers and magic lanterns. In 1953 with the 45 Series Enlarger and other darkroom equipment, Beseler entered the photographic world.

1871 Richard Leach Maddox (England) : Invents the gelatin dry plate silver bromide process, which allows for the development of exposed negatives at a later time. This innovation frees photographers from having to develop wet plates onsite.

1874 Lewis Hine (USA) Born : Photographer for social reform, he documented Ellis Island immigrants, the slums of NYC, and was an advocate for child labor laws. Hine was hired by the US National Child Labor Committee in 1909 to photograph children working in the coal mines. (d. 1940)

1877 Eadweard Muybridge : Eadweard Muybridge creates his groundbreaking "The Horse In Motion" series of sequential photographs, pioneering research into the study of motion. Muybridge went on to invent the Zoopraxiscope, a precursor of the modern movie projector.

1879 Ilford (UK) : Ilford begins manufacturing photographic materials.

1879 Edward Steichen (USA) Born : A notable photographer in his own right, Steichen was the first curator of photographs at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where he curated the famous "Family of Man" exhibition in 1953. (d. 1973)

1880 Kodak (USA) : Founded by George Eastman, Kodak introduces the first camera to the general populace.

1886 Edward Weston (USA) Born : When he was sixteen years old, his father gave him a Kodak Bulls-Eye #2 camera and he began to photograph at his aunt's farm and in Chicago parks. This was the first step in Weston's rise to become one of America's most prolific photographers. Weston's work was about what lies beyond the subject and its form. Weston used photography as a transformative process of reducing the subject to its fundamental structure, uniting rational thought and subjective feeling. For Weston, "the thing itself" was not the recording of what was in front of the camera, it was the thing's essence. (d. 1958)

1888 George Eastman (USA) : George Eastman, at age 24, sets up Eastman Dry Plate Company in Rochester, New York. His company produces the first half-tone photograph to appear in a daily newspaper, New York Graphic. Kodak Roll film camera patented by George Eastman.

1888 The Royal Geographic Society : First issue of National Geographic is published in the United States. It becomes the definitive picture.

1888 Celluloid film is invented : This becomes the forerunner of all modern photographic and motion picture film. The lightweight material, although flammable, makes glass plates obsolete and allows photography to branch out to the general public.narrative of landscapes, geography, and anthropology.

1889 Hannah Höch (Germany) Born : The only woman in the Berlin DADA group, working exclusively on Photo-Montage. (d. 1978)

1890 Photography School : The first schools dedicated to teaching the techniques of photography and retouching are open. Only those who could afford the tuition and the time away from their household duties could attend.

1890 Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitsky) (USA) Born : Born in Pennsylvania, Man Ray expanded the accepted limits of photography by using experimental methods of photography including the pictograph and solarization. (d. 1976)

1891 Rodinal : Rodinal fine grain developer is introduced by Agfa. It is still valued today for its ease of use and high-quality results.

1893 Roy Stryker (USA) Born : Roy Stryker was hired by the Farm Security Administration in 1935 to run the historical section. Stryker would hire Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, et al. to photograph rural hardships over the next six years. Stryker appointed photographer Arthur Rothstein to draft technical and aesthetic guidelines for the photographic campaigns of the Historical Section. Stryker then hired photographers Carl Mydans (up to the summer of 1936, Walker Evans (up to September 1937), and Dorothea Lange (with interruptions up to 1942). (d.1975)

Events in the 1900s

1900 Kodak Brownie : Kodak introduces the Brownie camera, a low cost and extremely simple-to-use camera which brings photography to the masses. It enables anyone to become a photographer and goes on to be one of the most popular consumer cameras of the 20th century.

1902 Ansel Adams (USA) Born : Ansel Adams was born in San Francisco. Noted for his development of the Zone System, a highly precise method of exposing, developing, and printing B&W images. His epic photographs of the American West - most especially Yosemite National Park - have come to symbolize the sheer enormity and beauty of America to people the world over. (d. 1984)

1902 Leni Riefenstahl (Germany) Born : Known by many as the "Mother of the Documentary" her photography and cinematography work is also hailed as the hallmark of propaganda filmmaking. Controversy swirls about her name even to this day. Was she a Nazi sympathizer or a documentary and art filmmaker? She claims to have been making art, but she also tells in her book "Hinter Den Kulissen Des Reichsparteitag-Films” how she helped plan the 1934 Nazi Party convention in Nuremberg with the purpose in mind of making a more effective film. Perhaps the most enduring contribution she has made to photography is the way her work fosters the ongoing discussion on the interconnectivity between art and society and therefore art and politics. (d. 2003)

1904 Margaret Bourke-White (USA) Born : A documentary photographer who was the first female photographer for Life, where her picture of Fort Peck Dam appeared on the first cover of the magazine. In 1942 she became the first woman Photographer to accompany the US Army Air Corps where she covered both WWII and the Korean War. She is also the first woman to fly on a bombing mission, which occurred over North Africa. (d. 1971)

1907 Lee Miller (USA) Born : At the age of 22, she moved to Europe to assist and model for Man Ray. During that time, she accidentally stumbled onto the 'Solarization effect' that Man Ray was to use so effectively. She was later commissioned by the U.S. Army to photograph concentration camps, and also was a war correspondent for Vogue. (d. 1977)

1907 Autochrome Lumière plate : Patented in 1903, the Autochrome Lumière plate became the first commercial color process in 1907, introduced by the Lumière brothers in France. The method involved creating an emulsion suspended within a mosaic of potato starch granules, that were dyed with red-orange, green, and blue-violet, combined with lamp black. Autochromes that have survived in good condition are noted for their startlingly faithful representations of color and detail.

1908 Henri Cartier-Bresson (France) Born : Regarded as one of the greatest photographers of his time, Henri Cartier-Bresson was a shy Frenchman who elevated "snap shooting" to the level of a refined and disciplined art. His sharp-shooter ability to catch "the decisive moment," his precise eye for design, his self-effacing methods of work, and his literate comments about the theory and practice of photography made him a legendary figure among contemporary photojournalists. (d. 2004)

1913 Robert Capa (Hungary) Born : One of the pioneers of modern-day political and war photography, Capa wins worldwide fame for his photograph of a soldier frozen at the moment of death while being shot during The Spanish Civil War. His few surviving frames of Omaha Beach become the quintessential images of D-Day. Capa went on to help found the Magnum Photo Agency in 1947. Died by stepping on a landmine in Indochina in 1954.

1913 Leica established : Leica introduces the first practical commercial 35mm camera prototypes. Leica takes 35mm movie film and re-orients it for still photography. The Leica I hit the market in 1925 in Germany.

1920 Rollei (Germany) : Originally named Werkstatt für Feinmechanik und Optik, Franke & Heidecke, Rollei was founded by Paul Franke and Reinhold Heidecke, both previous employees at Voigtlander. They began by manufacturing a stereo camera and in 1927 they introduced the Rolleiflex.

1921 FOMA Bohemia : Foma Bohemia, Czech Republic, is established producing photographic plates and processing chemicals. About a decade later they introduced their line of photograph darkroom paper, and soon after introduced their line of black and white film.

1923 Diane Arbus (USA) : Studied photography under Lisette Model, became a well-known Photographer specializing in Documentary Portraits in New York City, exhibits at Museum of Modern Art New York, later goes on to teach at Parsons, Cooper Union, and RISD. She is known for going where few other photographers would go at the time, to document the fringes of American society. Died by her own hand in 1971. (d. 2004)

1923 Richard Avedon (USA) Born : Richard Avedon was born. He became perhaps the most prominent and well-respected Fashion and Portrait American photographer of the second half of the 20th Century.

1931 Strobe Photography : Development of strobe photography by Harold Eugene "Doc" Edgerton at MIT. This eventually leads to the modern photographic flash superseding the disposable flashbulb. For this he was also known as "Papa Flash."

1932 Photoelectric cell : First light meter with photoelectric cell introduced.

1932 Group f/64 founded : American pioneers Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Willard Van Dyke, John Paul Edwards, Sonya Noskowiak, Henry Swift, and Imogen Cunningham founded the group f/64. They took the name from their preferred aperture setting, the smallest of the time. The organization continued until 1935, but its philosophy and aesthetic live on in what is known as the West Coast School.

1935 Farm Security Administration : Farm Security Administration was Founded (known as the Resettlement Administration until 1937) One of the FSA's tasks, assigned to the Historic Section, was photographic and sociological documentation of the work of the Resettlement Administration providing pictorial information on rural and small-town living conditions.

1935 Kodachrome : Kodak introduces Kodachrome, the first color positive transparency film, which also leads to home color motion picture film. Kodachrome became the premiere color slide film until the 1990s.

1935 WPA (Works Progress Administration) : WPA was created by the Roosevelt Administration. Notable Photographers from the era are Dorothea Lange (1895 - 1965) and Walker Evans (USA) (1903 -1975)(USA)

1936 Life : Life magazine is first published. It goes on to become perhaps the most significant image-oriented publication of the 20th century.

1937 Lisette Model : Lisette Model-begins her Photographic venture leading her to an exhibit in New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1940. Worked for Harper's Bazaar 1941-53 and also taught Photography in NYC from 1951-1982; one of her students being Diane Arbus.

1942 Kodak : Kodak introduces Kodacolor, the first color negative film, enabling color prints to be made.

1943 Russian Galina Sankova : Russian Galina Sankova, photojournalist and documentarian, photographs Russian children in German concentration camps, during WWII, in a body of work entitled "On the Trail of Horror." One of the most predominant Russian Female Photographers of her time.

1946 Freestyle : Freestyle is founded by Sam Fatman and Irving Resch in New York selling surplus military film supplies. After a move to Los Angeles, Freestyle continues to this day to offer a complete line of high value photographic products with the creative professional and educator in mind.

1947 Fotokemika (Croatia) : Fotokemika is founded, manufacturing black and white photographic materials. In 1970 Fotokemika bought the film coating plant from DuPont Adox and sold film under the Adox name. Due to lapses in the licensing agreement for the Adox brand name, they stopped using the Adox brand name and kept sales of their film going under the Efke brand name. In June 2012, Fotokemika stopped all production.

1947 Magnum Photos : Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, and David Seymour start the photographer-owned Magnum picture agency.

1947 Edwin Land (USA) : Dr. Edwin Land introduces the Polaroid camera, its first consumer camera, to the photo market.

1954 Minor White : Minor White first publishes the magazine Aperture.

1954 Tri-X : Kodak introduces "Tri-X" film in 35mm and 120 formats, as the first high-speed B&W film. It is still preferred today for its flexibility, ease of use, and classic look.

1954 Cindy Sherman (USA) Born : Rises to prominence with her "Untitled Film Stills." One of the most noted series of self-portraiture work in the 20th century.

1955 "Family of Man" : "Family of Man" exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art is organized by Edward Steichen (USA). It was the first major retrospective of photographs that included photographers from all over the world and elevated the medium to the standard of fine art.

1959 Nikon : Nikon introduces the Nikon F, the first true SLR system camera. The F-series continues to set the standard for SLR photography to this day.

1963 Instant Film : First color instant film developed by Polaroid

1970 Inkjet Printing : Ichiro Endo, an employee of Canon, Japan, discovers the reaction ink has when it is combined with heat and uses that technology to create the first inkjet printer.

1972 110mm Film : 110-format film and cameras introduced by Kodak with a 13x17mm frame. The format remained popular until the 1980s when it fell out of favor. The 110 format has a resurgence in popularity in the late 2010's due in large part to Lomography manufacturing new 110 positive film, and point and shoot film cameras coming back into the mainstream culture.

1972 C-41 : C-41 color negative process introduced, replacing C-22.

1973 One-step : Polaroid introduces the SX-70 camera, the first one step instant camera.

1975 E-6 Slide Processing : Modern E-6 slide processing is introduced.

1975 Kodak Digital : The first known digitally recorded images were created in a Kodak lab by Steven Sasson in 1975 and it took 23 seconds to capture the 0.01 MP image. The camera was very basic but the recording apparatus weighed in at 8 pounds.

1981 Ansel Adams : Ansel Adams purchases his first package of Oriental B&W Paper from Freestyle. We later go on to introduce this well-regarded paper to America. Freestyle continues to offer unique, high value products for the creative photographer.

1982 Holga (China) : The Holga in 120 format is designed by Lee Ting Mo in China. Created to appeal to working-class people as an affordable way to record everyday life. The Holga takes off outside of China, gaining a following among artists and street photographers, who embraced the plastic camera's light leaks, vignettes, and other quirks. The 120 Holga is followed by various other formats including a pinhole Holga, 110 format, 35mm, stereo 3D Holga among others. In 2015, Freestyle confirmed the closure of the factory that produced the beloved camera.

1983 DX Encoding : Kodak introduces DX barcode for 35mm film, which can be read by automatic cameras to determine film speed.

1984 Hahnemühle USA : In 1584 Merten Spieß was granted permission to build a paper mill. In 1886 Carl Hahne bought the mill. In 1902 the company was merged with Schleicher & Schuell, and in the early 2000's the company was renamed to Hahnemühle FineArt GmbH. In 1984 they established their US subsidiary. In 1997 Hahnemuhle created their Digital FineArt papers, bringing their FineArt Papers to the world of digital.

1984 Canon : Demonstrates first digital still camera, the RC-701, opening the door to an entirely new age of photography.

1985 Minolta : Minolta markets the world's first autofocus SLR system (called "Maxxum" in the US)

1986 Arista : Arista lines of Paper and Film are introduced by Freestyle as a value leader in the B&W market.

1990 Adobe Photoshop Released : The first version of Adobe Photoshop is released, giving birth to the digital darkroom.

1992 PhotoCD : Kodak introduces PhotoCD

1992 Fotoimpex (Germany) : Fotoimpex is founded as an importer of Eastern European photographic materials. In 2003 they obtained the rights to the Adox name. Among others, they imported Efke KB films and sold them as Adox branded films. They have a factory in Bad Saarow, Germany; and produce beloved products like Rodinal, using the last formulations made by Agfa before they closed.

1999 Nikon D1 DSLR : In 1999, Nikon released the D1, the first professional DSLR to break into the market outside of the Kodak empire.

Events in the 2000s

2000 J-SH04 World's First Camera Phone : J-Phone introduces the first mobile phone with a built-in camera to the public.

2002 Canon EOS-1DS : Canon introduces the first full-frame DSLR, the digital camera sensor is now equivalent to a 35mm film frame size. This larger sensor makes it easier to shoot wide-angle images.

2002 Arista.EDU : Arista.EDU is introduced by Freestyle as a low price, high quality line of B&W films and papers with the educator in mind.

2005 Arista.EDU Ultra and Arista II : Arista.EDU Ultra and Arista II are released.

2005 Agfa : Longtime German giant AGFA goes out of business.

2006 Varycon, Slavich : Freestyle introduces American audiences to Varycon and Slavich B&W paper, from Croatia and Russia, respectively.

2007 Forte : Hungarian paper & film manufacturer goes out of business.

2008 Mirrorless Cameras : Panasonic introduces the Lumix DMC-G1, the first digital mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera. Using the Electronic ViewFinder (EVF), the Lumix DMC-G1 allowed for a smaller more portable camera body and lens system.

2010 Instagram : Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger launched the photo and video sharing and editing mobile application. Although not the first application to allow instant sharing of images globally to wide audiences, Instagram was the first to gain wide audiences.

2017 Holgas are Back in Production : Freestyle announces that the molds for Holga cameras have been acquired and put back into production. The beloved toy camera is available once again.

2018 Ektachrome : Kodak reintroduces Ektachrome Color Reversal Film in 35mm and Super 8mm. In late 2019 Kodak announced the re-release of Ektachrome in 120 and 4x5 formats.

2019 Fujifilm Neopan ACROS ll : Fujifilm brings back the beloved Neopan ACROS ll thanks due to a renewed interest in film photography.