Lecture 1 additional reading notes

Here are the notes I have created from Mary Warner-Mariens book Photography: A Cultural History. The notes are snippets of the text that I have found important and noteworthy.

(P9-21) Warnier Marien

  • History of the first photographs fit the conventional notion that invention is regular and progressive, with each experiment building successfully on the past. This wasn’t the case according to photography’s pioneers.
  • Antoine Hercules Romauld Florence conceived photography after noticing that certain fabrics faded when exposed to light.
  • He experimented with camera obscura to see if he could make images permanent- though unsuccessful.
  • His diaries show precise drawings of small cameras and printing frames, that used sunlight to create image.
  • Devised word photographie from Greek works for light and writing.
  • Couldn’t compete with Daguerre’s photography, and declared he wouldn’t dispute anyone discovery as two people can have the same idea.
  • Fox Talbot also mentioned this stating “simultaneous invention makes it difficult to construct a linear chronology of photography.”
  • European photography researched by Wedgewood and Davy-up to date with scientific inquiry.
  • Experimented with light sensitive materials, they sought to fix a shadow cast on paper or leather made light sensitive by silver nitrate, as well as trying to capture images in camera obscura.
  • Silver nitrate was not sufficiently light sensitive to hold the image projected in camera obscura, the shadow images though did leave an imprint, though not permanent due to the silver nitrate continuing to react with light.
  • Another precursor to photography was sun writing by Niepce.
  • Moved on to Lithography-technique for reproducing images.
  • Had several advantages-could yield a large number of prints, and rendered tones and shadows more subtly, than etching and engraving.
  • Niepce began experimenting with light on photosensitive materials, involving paper made sensitive by application of silver chloride solution, though he experienced same problems as Wedgewood and Davy when using camera obscura.
  • Tones were reversed, creating what is now known as a negative, though it wasn’t latent. He tried to create a positive image, though failed in his attempts.
  • He was unaware of the work of others, though in Paris, he would have had the chance to read papers by others, neglecting this slowed him down, though he did receive help on photosensitive materials from chemist Vauquelin. Despite this Niepce’s work was independent.
  • Shifted his interests again in 1822 to copying engravings by means of the action of light.
  • He saturated an engraving with oil to make it transparent, before placing it on a pewter plate, that was coated with bitumen of Judea (hardens when exposed to light). After exposure he rinsed away the soft parts (dark) with lavender oil, before etching the blank parts with acid and printing it.
  • He found this successful, so it tried a similar procedure using the camera obscura, exposing it in a window, for eight hours.
  • It created a negative of the scene outside, though poor in quality. It was leterally reversed. He exposed the plate to iodine fumes, this didn’t fully reverse the image, but improved the contrast.
  • By doing this Niepce had created a positive image. The world’s first permanent photograph.
  • Unfortunately, there was no negative to recreate prints.
  • He called this process Heliography or sun writing. He went to England to show his Brother, but his attempts at gaining financial backing for his own invention, caused Niepce to seek it himself. He gained support from Bauer of the Royal Society, though he failed to generate interest, mainly due to Niepce’s concealing the exact technique.
  • Niepce met with Daguerre, who used the camera obscura to create stage illustrations.
  • Niepce tried harder to create a permanent camera obscurra image using photochemicals, moving to highly polished silver and silver covered copper plates.
  • Decided to work with Daguerre to improve the process. They signed a contract stating that Daguerre would give Niepce an improved camera obscura if Niepce showed him the technique. Daguerre admitted that it wasn’t up to standard, but took up Niepce research after his sudden death.
  • Daguerre concentrated on creating the latent image, realising that treatments after exposure could bring out the image.
  • Daguerre found there was a latent image on the exposed silver plate, which could be treated with mercury fumes, further developing the image.
  • He also found that table salt dissolved in hot water stopped the light sensitive material continuing to react.
  • After his success, he renegotiated the contract he had made, which was held by Niepce’s son.
  • He demanded to be called the inventor of the process, and that it bared his name.
  • Isidore Niepce secured his father’s legacy, making Daguerre agree that both processes would be published together.
  • They agreed to market the process by selling shares-this failed.
  • People where suspicious of Daguerre, and he subtly promoted his own process, while paying sentimental, but little attention to Niepce’s. He promoted it to the leisured class, commenting on its little time, and how it would greatly please ladies.
  • Politician Francios Arago played a huge part in gaining funding, and giving both Isidore Niepce and Daguerre pensions.
  • There were many responses to the Daguereotype.
  • Francis Bauer organized an exhibition to show off Niepce early work
  • Bayard also came out, claiming his invention was better, he called it simpler and more elegant than the daguerreotype.
  • He darkened light sensitive paper, drenching it in sodium chloride and exposing it to light. Once blacked he soaked it in potassium iodide. When placed in the camera obscura and exposed it, the light bleached the paper according to its intensity.
  • Again this didn’t create a negative.
  • Bayard was unhappy with the authorities for backing Daguerre and him, so he created a self-portrait, of him drowned, showing his feelings towards the authorities.
  • John Hershel was also intrigued. Two decades previously he had explored how hyposulphite of soda dissolved silver salts, so he knew a great deal about light sensitive materials.
  • He created an image with no information on how Daguerre achieved it, and conceived making prints form negatives.
  • He continued to experiment, including trying colour photography using vegetable dyes. He created the Cyanotype, which produced a blue and white image. It never became a major form in photography, but was commercial success.
  • Fox Talbot also was a major player of the time. He was amazed at how the same invention he thought he had come up with was created at the same time in France.
  • Fox Talbot created two ways of fixing an image.
  • The first was less well known and similar to Florence’s method.
  • The second was Salt printing which used a strong solution of table salt for sensitising the paper and fixing the image. He referred to his work as photogenic drawing.
  • He noted that the drawings could be used to yield a second drawing, i.e. used as a negative.
  • He patented the process after improving the process calling it the calotype. It made use of the latent image, the invisible picture on the negative had to be further developed after the exposure in the camera.
  • Herschel and fox Talbot were invited to Paris to see the Daguerreotype. Fox Talbot refused, but asked Herschel to comment on it.
  • Herschel commented that they “Surpass anything I could have conceived as within the bounds of reasonable expectation.
  • He noted the superiority compared to the photogenic drawing of Fox Talbot, and the very short exposure times.

 

The Second Invention of Photography.

 

  • It took almost 15 years for the second invention to come about. Photography became flexible and experimental, neither art or science alone, but both together.
  • Photography was not just the reproduction of art objects, but the creation of an art form itself.
  • Calotype and Daguerreotype became patented, meaning people who wished to use the daguerreotype had to pay, and any professional using the calotype had to pay.
  • This indicated the transformation from invention to commercial success.
  • It was used for record keeping, in papers, and magazines, as well as an aspiring art form. Photography was “art-science”.
  • At the time art meant a craft or skill, as well as media specifics i.e. painting.
  • Science was knowledgeable areas i.e. Biology, and technique for making experiments.
  • Observers saw photography as a science wedded to a craft, fundamentally dependant on the photographer’s knowledge of chemistry and willingness to experiment.
  • Daguerreotype tended to be used when exact renderings were wanted, such as portraits or documenting objects.
  • Calotype was used when softer effects and multiple copies where needed.
  • Talbot started experimenting with the PHOTOMICROGRAPH, almost an early day macro. He photographed a magnified small object, stating how important it could be for naturalists wishing to copy small things.
  • He also saw the artistic capabilities as demonstrated in his book ‘THE PENCIL OF NATURE’. In this book he demonstrated the amount of applications photography could be used for, even indicating in the future that photography in the dark would be possible for undercover surveillance.
  • Talbot opened a studio in Reading, which was part of the mid-century industrialisation of photography.
  • Bayard saw the possibility of representation in photography not being truthful. He explored ways it could be misleading, this seemed to inform his work, what the eye sees, and what the photograph records, may not be as it seems.

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