Thursday, February 16, 2012

The History and Development of the Camera Part 1 - By Raymond and Andrea Parmalee

 Photographers have not always had the luxury of taking a photograph in less than a second, viewing it instantly and deleting the photo if it is not to their liking. A little less than two hundred years ago capturing a permanent image was not more than a fleeting thought. It is truly amazing how far photography has come since that first permanent photograph was recorded in the early 1800s.

For thousands of years people have known that light passing through a small aperture (or opening) will show an inverted image on a surface. The camera obscura, which was not actually a camera, was the device that eventually led to the invention of the camera. The camera obscura was used to project an image so that it could then be drawn by an artist. The very first permanent photograph was taken in France around 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce from his work room window. It was recorded on a polished pewter plate that was coated with a light sensitive substance that was placed in a simple wooden box with a lens. It took approximately eight hours to record the image. Photography was born.

By 1839 Daguerreotypes and Calotypes were the new and improved recording mediums. The Daguerreotypes were the most commonly used and consisted of a copper plate coated with iodized silver and exposed to mercury vapor (Sorenson, Kirsten, n.d.). These copper plates were placed into a wooden camera that featured bellows and a lens. This camera was still a very simple device. The Daguerreotype camera was the first camera that was produced in quantity.

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce's Camera

Camera Obscura

By the end of the 1850s the Daguerreotypes were replaced with what are commonly known as wet plates. During the 1880s the collodion process (wet plates), in turn, was largely replaced by gelatin dry plates—glass plates with a photographic emulsion of silver halides suspended in gelatin. The dry gelatin emulsion was not only more convenient but could be made much more sensitive, greatly reducing exposure times (collodion process, n.d.). Although many changes and advancements had been made in the recording medium over the last fifty years, not much had changed on the camera itself. This all changed with the invention of film.

The use of photographic film was pioneered by George Eastman , who started manufacturing paper film in 1885 before switching to celluloid in 1889 (retrieved from His first camera was on the market in 1888 and was named the “Kodak”. In 1900, Eastman took mass-market photography one step further with the Brownie, a simple and very inexpensive box camera that introduced the concept of the snapshot. The Brownie was extremely popular and various models remained on sale until the 1960s (History of the camera, n.d.).

Kodak Brownie Camera

Film is still manufactured that fits some Kodak Brownie cameras. If you enjoy simplicity, these cameras are a joy to photograph with. Photographing with an antique camera gives the photographer a sense of nostalgia that cannot be obtained through the use of a modern day film or digital camera. It takes you back to a simpler time when taking a photograph took a different kind of skill and patience.


These are photographs taken using a Kodak Brownie Camera.

This was written by Raymond and Angela Parmalee and published on their behalf.
To view more of thier work visit:
Thier profile on Etsy: Raymond and Andrea Parmalee
Thier photography shop on Etsy: P5Photography

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Photograph References:
First Photograph:
Camera Obscura:
Joseph Nicéphore Niépce’s camera:,_c._18...
Dry Plate Scans: P5 Photography (Raymond and Andrea Parmalee)
Photograph of Kodak Brownie: P5 Photography (Raymond and Andrea Parmalee)
Kodak Brownie Photographs: P5 Photography (Raymond and Andrea Parmalee)

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