Have you ever watched an old television show where someone developed a photograph by hand in a darkroom, maybe at his house or office? Have you ever stopped to think about how much photography has changed over time? Today, we take pictures with our digital cameras or our phones. We can see the image immediately after we take it. We can post it to social media, share it with friends, or even print it out in a matter of minutes. Only a few decades ago, pictures were not available instantly (unless you had a special camera). You took the pictures you wanted and hoped that when you had them developed they would look something like what you thought you had just taken a picture of! I can tell you from experience that it didn’t always work out that way!
Now let’s go back in time a little further. It is the mid-1820s and a man named Nicéphore Niépce from France created a photograph for the first time. It did not turn out well and it took eight hours of exposure time. Then Louis Jacque Mandé Daguerre, also from France, came along. He too was interested in capturing a permanent image of something he saw. He and Nicéphore decided to work together and become partners. They made several advancements but had not reached Daguerre’s goal by the time Nicéphore died in 1833.
Daguerre continued to experiment and discovered that a permanent image could be captured and retained by exposing an image taken on a camera’s iodized silver plate to mercury fumes and then made permanent by a specific salt solution. He announced his discovery in 1839. Daguerre and Nicéphore’s son were each honored and rewarded for their work, and Daguerre was recognized as the inventor of the new “daguerreotype.”
The world of photography—and the world we live in today—would forever be changed.
Today, let’s remember the birthday of Daguerre, November 18, 1787. Print the daguerreotype printable and draw your own images on the backgrounds provided. Remember—only use black, white, and shades of grey in your drawing.
(Fits European history timeline or inventions timeline.)
If you are new to this series, visit my introduction to timeline index cards.