Photography has a long and fascinating history full of interesting facts. Australian professional photographer Megan Kennedy shares 7 of the most interesting photographic history and techniques that might surprise you.
Fact № 1 Everything in the name
We use terms like “photography” and “camera” all the time, but where did those words actually come from?
As a reminder, the word photography actually comes from the Greek words photos and graphé. Photos translates to “light” and graphé means “line representation” or “drawing”. When used in conjunction, the two words literally mean “painting with light”. The word “photography” was coined by Sir John Herschel in 1839.
The word “camera”, on the other hand, comes from the Latin term “camera obscura”, which means “dark room”. The term was originally used to describe the means of projecting an external scene onto a flat surface in a dark room. Sounds familiar? The camera as we know it today evolved from the pinhole camera configuration.
Fact № 2 Kodak Moment
Did you know that the term Kodak is just made up? Founder George Eastman preferred the K because he believed it was “strong and sharp.” Using a set of anagrams, Eastman and his mother coined the name Kodak. They used three principles when designing it. The word should be short, easy to pronounce, and unlike any other name or association. Kodak, or rather the term Kodak Moment, later entered the general lexicon to describe situations that seemed ideal for photography.
Fact № 3 First selfie
Self-portraits or selfies are commonplace today. But what you may not know is that the selfie itself dates back to 1839. Robert Cornelius, a lamp manufacturer with a deep knowledge of chemistry and metallurgy, took on the task of perfecting the daguerreotype with chemist Paul Beck Goddard.
In 1839, Cornelius decided to turn the camera towards himself and sat in front of it for about 10-15 minutes (the specificity of photographic equipment of that time, since this is one of the early photographic processes). The resulting daguerreotype depicted an off-center image of Cornelius, the oldest known deliberately created photographic self-portrait. Daguerreotypes, in principle, by their nature, are more like reflections in a mirror.
Fact № 4 One small step
There are many facts about “land” photography. But there are also many interesting factoids obtained from outside our planet.
Filmed in December 1972, the Blue Marble was made by the Apollo 17 crew en route to the moon. The first photograph, which depicts our entire planet from space, was taken about 18,000 miles (29,000 kilometers) from the Earth’s surface. Subsequently, this photograph became one of the most reproduced images in history.
Another interesting fact related to space photography is related to the fate of many cameras that accompanied astronauts to the moon. Hasselblad cameras have captured some of the most iconic images in history – including man’s first footsteps on the lunar surface. However, due to weight restrictions, not all cameras that went on a flight to the moon returned. To date, up to 12 Hasselblad cameras remain on the only natural satellite of our planet.
Fact № 5 The first photobook
Number five on our list of photography facts is based on photo books.
Photobooks have a rich history in photography, but Anna Atkins seems to have started it. Atkins, a British botanist, learned about the early photographic processes from Henry Fox Talbot. She is also one of the first female photographers in history.
Atkins made visual documentation of botanical specimens using the cyanotype process (cyanotype – monochrome prints made with this technique have a characteristic blue color). She then compiled her cyanotypes into the publication Photographs of British Algae: An Impression of the Cyanotype in 1843, and subsequently published three volumes. To date, only 17 copies of the book are known. The cyanotype technique is now used by photographers as an alternative and interesting way to display objects, since it gives results unusual in the modern world and is quite simple in nature.
Fact № 6 Most viewed photo
The famous Bliss (Bliss) image taken by former National Geographic photographer Charles O’Rear in 1996 is an image of green hills and semi-cloudy blue skies in Sonoma County, California. Microsoft bought the rights to this image in 2000. The company then used the photo as the default wallpaper for the Windows XP operating system.
The success of Windows XP and related marketing materials has led to a general consensus that Bliss is the most viewed photograph of all time. Even O’Rear himself admitted that he will probably be best known for the image that reads: “Anyone over 15 now will remember this photo for the rest of their lives.”
Fact № 7 “Eye” of the camera
The camera lens and the human eye have a lot in common, and that brings us to the final fact about photography in today’s roundup.
Aperture can be defined as the hole in the lens through which light passes. A camera lens can transmit or limit the amount of light that reaches the camera’s sensor using aperture blades.
In the human eye, the iris does the same job by relaxing and contracting the muscles to regulate the amount of light entering the eye. As you move between bright and dark environments, the iris expands or contracts to adjust the size of the pupil accordingly.
Interestingly, the human pupil can dilate up to about 7 mm. This equates to our eyes shooting from f / 8.3 in very bright light to f / 2.1 in the dark.