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The history of photography is a fascinating read. Sir John Herschel coined the term photograph in 1839 when the first process was invented.

The first ever photograph was taken in France in 1826, it was a picture of a courtyard taken by Joseph Niepce. Being the first ever photograph, it wasn’t particularly efficient – the exposure alone took eight hours to make!

Niepce’s photograph was made with a layer of bitumen on a metal plate. After the eight-hour exposure, the bitumen was washed in oil. The light had hardened the light parts of the picture. The dark parts were then washed away to leave the dark metal showing through to leave a picture.

In 1837 photography progressed further when Louis Daguerre invented a method of taking photographs called daguerreotypes. These were the first clear and permanent photographs, but could only make one picture per scene. In those days it was not possible to produce copies. Fox Talbot invented the process of making a negative from which positive prints can be made. The first colour photograph was made in 1861 and the first film in 1881.

Modern photography involves a negative made by the development of film coated with silver salts. The picture is obtained by shining light through the negative onto the light-sensitive paper with a coating similar to that on the original film.

The Polaroid camera was invented by Edwin Land in 1947 and is used for instant pictures for security passes, laboratory records etc. It produces finished prints in less that one minute by using a film in which the emulsion is enclosed in a pod of developer. Modern Polaroid cameras produce colour prints, the appropriate dyes being enclosed in the pod.

Photography as an art form dates back to the first picture produced. The Crimean War in the 1850s and the US civil War in the 1860s provided the first opportunities for the true miseries of war to be realistically portrayed.

In the 1920s the collages of the cubist painters encouraged such photographers as Laszlo Moholy-Nagy to experiment with photomontages. But by the 1930s the Frenchman Henri Cartier-Bresson had led fashion back to a more realistic technique; using the camera as an extension of the eye.

Photography has also had a profound effect upon painting. Art historians believe that the 20th century trend towards abstract painting has been a reaction to the camera’s ability to do superbly what representationlist painters have often been able to do indifferently.