This Day In Tech: Aug. 19, 1839: Photography Goes Open Source

Native Californian, c. 1853 More typical was a sixth-plate daguerreotype, occupying one-sixth of a standard plate, or 3.25 x 3.25 inches. Exposure time could be several minutes, and it's hard to hold a smile for that long, so photographers usually instructed subjects to hold their mouths in a flat, noncommittal mien. If you think these folks look uncomfortable (or worse), you try sitting like that, unflinching, for two minutes. Image: Isaac Wallace Baker, circa 1853/Courtesy Oakland Museum of California

Wired Magazine, By Randy Alfred

1839: With a French pension in hand, Louis Daguerre reveals the secrets of making daguerreotypes to a waiting world. The pioneering photographic process is an instant hit.

Using chemical reactions to make images with light was not quite new. Doing it fast was. Inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niepce created a rough image using silver salts and a camera obscura, or “dark box,” in 1816. The image faded away quickly.

Another decade of work led to the first permanent photographic image, when Niepce fixed a shot of his courtyard onto a pewter plate. The exposure took eight hours in bright sunlight. Niepce continued researching in hopes of making the process faster and more practical.

Daguerre was a successful commercial artist hoping to increase the realism of his giant diorama paintings, some of them 70 feet long by 45 feet high. When using a camera obscura to sketch the outlines (or cartoons) for his paintings, he thought it would be better to create images directly with the camera.  Read the entire article

Listen to a NPR Pod Cast “Analyzing the World’s First Photograph” made by Niepce.

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