Introduction/The History of Photography


For my major project, I have decided to explore the world of both street photography and staged photography. Photography has always interested me from a very young age. I have enjoyed it both as a hobby, mostly through taking photos on my phone whilst travelling around places, and as a job when I worked within a photographic lab processing photos before coming to university. Despite this experience, street photography is not something that I have ever had the chance to explore in more depth so I decided that this project would be perfect for me. I would not only have the chance to improve on my own photo skills, but to also thoroughly research an area within photography that has always intrigued me. 

I will eventually go on to producing my own portfolio of photographs, but before doing this I will be researching into the subject of photography to hopefully help me to understand the subject deeper and also gain some inspiration for my own work. I have decided that one of my first tasks would be to research into the history of street photography.

The History of Photography

The word ‘Photography’ is ‘derived from the Greek photos (“light”) and graphien (“to draw”), and was first used in the 1830’s’ (Rosenblum, n.d.) however, the art of photography has actually been around much longer than this…

Illustrations and timeline created by me

Camera Obscura Invented 

The camera obscura is a literal example of drawing with light. It was the first tool we know about that was ‘used by some artists that allowed them to easily draw or paint realistic landscapes and rendering of architecture. In its simplest form, a pinhole projects a scene in a dark room or bow that the artist can basically trace over, […] the earliest historical mention of the idea dates back to China in around 500BCE’ (Photography Talk, n.d.).

Daguerreotype Process Invented

One of the first types of permanent photos was invented by Louis Daguerre. This was known as the Daguerreotype and they were made on silver copper plates. These images ‘did not fade and needed under thirty minutes of light exposure’ (Thought Co, n.d.). 

Collodion Process Created

This process was invented by Frederick Scott Archer and involved the use of wet chemicals in a dark room and a plate. The camera would then expose onto the plate, and ‘the images required only two or three seconds of light exposure’ (Thought Co, n.d.)

Dry Plate Process Invented

Richard Maddox invented a new dry plate process, which completely changed the world of photography, ‘photographers were […] able to use commercial dry plates off off the shelf instead of having to prepare their own emulsions in a mobile darkroom [and] for the first time, cameras could be made small enough to be hand-held’ (Tietz, 2017).

Box Camera Invented

The Kodak box camera was revolutionary, in how much it simplified the photographic process and made it more accessible for users. It was much smaller than previous cameras, rolls of film were inserted inside it and the user could then send the films to Kodak to get processed. Kodak even used the slogan ‘You press the button, we’ll do the rest’ (Film is Not Dead, 2017) to advertise their new cameras.

Instant Camera Invented

The ‘Land Camera’ by Polaroid ‘contained a roll of positive paper with a pod of developing chemicals at the top of each frame [rollers would then] spread the reagents evenly between the two layers and pushed it out of the camera’ (Macneil, 2019). This then resulted in an instant black and white photo.

Point and Shoot Camera Invented

Konica introduced the first point and shoot camera, ‘it was a compact, light and simple to use camera with an excellent lens that was distinctly wider than average for the time and that took good photographs because it could be focused accurately. It was an outstanding sales success throughout the world.’ (Camerapedia, n.d.). 

First Professional Digital Camera

Kodak launched the first professional DSLR camera. A digital camera back was attached to a regular SLR camera, ‘came with a 200MB hard drive that could store roughly 160 uncompressed images’ (Chen, 2011) and ‘the images taken could be reviewed, deleted and processed with the Digital Storage Unit’. (Digitalkamera Museum, n.d.). 

First Camera Phone

The first ever camera phone was created by the company Kyocera in 1999 ‘it was the first such phone with a built-in camera that was sold commercially to the general public’ (Callaham, 2021) and ‘by 2003, camera phone sales overtook digital cameras’ (Trenholm, 2021)

First Smart Phone

Apple launched the iPhone in 2007, and phone cameras began to dramatically improve – ’phone memories got bigger so you could take more pictures; CCD sensors were replaced by CMOS chips that use less power’ (Trenholm, 2021). 


Rosenblum, N (n.d.) History of photography. Available online: [Accessed 18/10/21].

Photography Talk (n.d.) History of photography timeline from start to present day. Available online: [Accessed 18/10/21].

Thought Co (n.d.) Photography timeline. Available online: [Accessed 18/10/21].

Tietz, T (2017) How Richard Leach Maddox revolutionised photography. Available online: [Accessed 18/10/21].

Film is Not Dead (2017) “You press the button, we do the rest” – George Eastman. Available online: [Accessed 18/10/21].

Macneil, J (2019) Polaroid introduces the instant camera, February 21, 1947. Available online: [Accessed 18/10/21].

Camerapedia (n.d.) Konica C35. Available online: [Accessed 18/10/21].

Chen, J (2011) Digital photography in 1991. Available online: [Accessed 18/10/21].

Digitalkamera Museum (n.d.) Kodak professional DCS. Available online: [Accessed 18/10/21].

Callaham, J (2021) The first camera phone was sold 22 years ago, and its not what you’d expect. Available online: [Accessed 18/10/21].

Trenholm, R (2021) History of digital cameras: From ’70s prototypes to iPhone and Galaxy’s everyday wonders. Available online: [Accessed 18/10/21].

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