The early development of the camera
In this assignment, I will be researching the early development of the camera. I will also be explaining how the camera’s changed, so the technology and the theories behind it and not just what happened. As well as this I will be seeking answers to some of my own questions so I can gain something out of this assignment on a personal level. I will be specifically looking to tread along the path towards the first moving image in 1878.
To start this assignment, I need to go all the way back to the development of the first ever photograph before I can dig deeper into how moving images were achieved. So the man responsible for the first ever photograph was a Frenchman named Joseph Nicephore Niepce and he captured the first ever photograph in 1826/27. The photograph was taken from behind one of Niepce’s upstairs windows and shows the view from that particular window which shows some houses and a pathway or as he called it ‘the barn’. And it is entitled ‘The view from the window at Le Gras’.
So how was the photograph taken? Niepce used the term ‘Heliography’ to describe how he took the first ever photograph, a term that he invented. At this point I would not be able to continue as I do not understand what the term Heliography means. So what is Heliography?
Heliography is a process that uses sunlight to create photographs. Firstly you mix powdered bitumen of Judea with water. This creates a thick tar like substance that in this case Niepce painted onto a flat pewter plate. This substance has to cover the whole surface. Then you need to heat up the substance onto the plate. Once dried, the plate needs to be placed into a camera. Then in Niepce’s case, the exposure was eight hours long. Following this, the plate is then washed using a mixture of oil lavender and white petroleum. This is done in order to dissolve away the parts of the bitumen that have not been hardened by sunlight. After this you can then Look at the image and see that the lighter shades are represented by the hardened bitumen layers and the darker shades are represented by the bare metal. But the photograph or heliograph is not complete because it needs to be removed from the liquid and dried on a drying rack. The term ‘Helios’ means sun in Greek, and ‘Graphos’ means writing in Greek. The camera that Niepce used to take the photograph was a camera obscura. It was made up of two wooden boxes. One of the two boxes had a lens in it and the other box had a glass screen. Bellows were used to connect the boxes. This meant that the distance between the lens and screen could be varied.
So how did Niepce know the combinations of mixtures needed to create a heliograph? Did he get lucky? No. bitumen of Judea dated back to the ancient Egyptians and was used to make lithographic engravings.
Something that has puzzled me over the first photograph is ‘why is ‘the view from the window at Le Gras’ hailed as the first ever photograph?’ This puzzles me because one or two years previously in 1825, Niepce made a heliograph of a man leading a horse and 3 years prior to that he made a heliograph of Pope Puis VII. The previous two heliographs no longer exist, so we cannot study them and consider them as the first photographs as we have no evidence that they were the first, because the heliograph of Pope Puis VII was destroyed in an attempt to replicate it, whereas the view from the window at Le Gras is on display at the ransom centre.
From 1826 and Niepce’s heliograph, it took 52 years before the first moving picture came about. So what happened between these two historical events?
Because this assignment is about ‘Film’ I will not talk too much about ‘Photography’ so one major event in the early development of the camera between these two dates was Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre’s invention of the ‘Daguerreotype’. The daguerreotype was a process that ended with an image that was printed onto a sheet of copper plated with a thin coat of silver. It was a more advanced way of taking ‘photographs’ rather than heliographs. It was also a more successful way of taking photographs as it did not require the multiple hour long exposure and daguerreotype shops opened up, with New York City alone having 70 shops.
So how do these images differ from those of Nicephore Niepce?
The daguerreotypes went through a different process to end up with photographs. Louis’ patients would sit down on a chair which was on a raised platform and in a room that would let in allot of light. The head of the patient would have been held still by a clamp. After all of this, a silver coated copper plate would be polished in order to make the surface reflective. It would then be sensitized using chloride of iodine and chloride of bromine. The plate would need to have a yellow like appearance, which was done by placing it in a closed box over iodine. The plate would then be carefully placed in the camera without letting in light. Once the photograph had been taken then the plate would be developed over hot mercury, this was followed by the plate being fixed using sodium thiosulfate or salt and gold chloride. The final daguerreotype was covered by a sheet of protective glass and placing them in a frame or a case before giving them to the customer. The exposure times for early daguerreotype’s were between 3 and 15 minutes.
The first moving image is credited to Eadweard Muybridge who in 1878, managed to take the first moving image which is of a horse jumping. So why did Muybridge want to try and take the first moving image? Well in 1872, Muybridge was contacted by Leland Stanford to take photographs of horses because he made a bet that all four of a horse’s feet are off the ground simultaneously, so he hired Muybride.
But why did it take Muybridge so long to do so? Muybridge became distracted as to the fact that his wife had taken a lover, and Muybridge ended up killing him. So Muybridge left San Francisco and spent two years in Guatemala.
So how did Muybridge manage to achieve this task? When Muybridge returned, he hung a white background cloth against a long wall and lined up a row of camera’s with tripwires, and the camera’s would take a picture for a split second as the horse ran by. The camera’s were at a shutter speed of less than 1/2000 of a second. And strings attached to electric switches were stretched across the track and attached to the camera shutters. When running past, the horse would snap the strings and trigger the shutters. And Leland was right, all four of the horse’s feet are not touching the ground simultaneously. But Muybridge still needed to present his findings to the public and so he did by using the zoopraxiscope, something he invented himself. The zoopraxiscope worked by projecting images from rotating glass disks in rapid succession, so it gave the impression that the images were moving. He showed his work to the public in 1882.
When was the first movie ever made?
There are several answers to this question because there are several types of movies so I will provide the rundown on all of the legitimate answers.
Following Muybridge’s success with taking the first moving image, there were several other moving images made as a result of that. The first of which was ten years after Muybridge’s horse image. It was entitled the ‘Roundhay Garden Scene’. It lasts for about two seconds an it is a French made film featuring Louis Le Prince, a French inventor and some of his family. Louis Le Prince is considered as one of the founding fathers of motion picture. This is because ‘The Roundhay Garden Scene’ was made at about the same time as Thomas Edison’s and the Lumiere brothers work. Le Prince had worked in many different locations; France, United Kingdom and United States. It was in Leeds, England that he created the ‘Roundhay Garden Scene’. Le Prince also made the ‘Leeds Bridge Scene’ in 1888, the same year as the ‘Roundhay Garden Scene’ For the ‘Leeds Bridge Scene’ Le Prince used a one lens camera. He used non perforated sensitized Kodak roll paper film for the ‘Leeds Bridge Scene’. There is not as much to know about Le Price because he mysteriously vanished in 1888.
Another possible response to this question is W.K.L Dickson and William Heise’s 1889 short ‘Monkeyshines. No 1’ which features one of the two or if not, both of whom goofing off in front of the camera. This film was shot in a different way compared to Roundhay Garden Scene as it was shot with a long strip of film.
Fred Ott’s ‘Sneeze’ of 1894 is also a contender for first ever movie because it was the first movie that involved copyright. This movie was made at Thomas Edison’s Black Maria rooftop studio.
Furthermore, the Lumiere brothers created potentially the first film ever as their film of workers leaving the Lumiere factory was the first film that was ever made for projection. In March 1895, the Lumiere brothers held a private screening of projected movies. The films were screened in a café in Paris and thirty three paid to attend the private screening of films. The screening featured 10 short films, each of which being 46 seconds long. The Lumiere brothers have been widely credited as the people responsible for the invention of film and here is why. One of the brothers, Louis invented the ‘dry plate process’ (Etiquette Bleue) in 1881. Before the dry plate process you would have to travel and carry a dark tent to take photographs but the dry plate process meant that you as the photographer would put the dry plate into the dry plate holder and into the camera before sliding the cover from the plate holder to uncover the dry plate. Then you would uncover and re-cover the lens. After that you would slide the cover on the dark holder back onto the dark side. And finally you would remove the plate holder from the camera and take home for processing. A few years later, the Lumiere brothers were producing around 15,000,000 dry plates a year. Their father Antoine Lumiere was invited to view Edison’s peephole Kinetoscope. He presented his son Louis with a piece of kinetoscope film given to him and told them to make one. The Lumiere brothers made some experiments and discovered its limitations; it was too heavy and only one person could experience the films at a time. They soon solved the problems of the camera and improved on it by combining the camera with a printer and projector and called it the ‘Cinematographe’ and it was patented in February 1895. It shot at 16 frames per second.
Finally, the last contenders for ‘The first movie ever’ are the Sklandanowsky brothers who used the Bioskop, something the pair invented. The Bioskop camera uses two parallel film strips and two lenses. These had the capability to project images onto a screen at a rate of 16 frames per second. During the Berlin Wintergarten festival, the Sklandanowky brothers presented their films.
At the end of this assignment, I feel that if someone asked me about how film started, then I would be able to provide a strong answer to the question. I now have a greater knowledge of Photography and Film during the 19th century. So I have also built up my knowledge as in previous ears of Photography, we did not cover much about past years of photography. So I have learned new things and considering I love history, it means that I have enjoyed and appreciated learning something new because to me it is like a book, despite taking place already, I don’t know how Photography started and I want to know, which I now know better.
http://www.precinemahistory.net/1885.htm – Burns, Paul
http://www.earlycinema.com/pioneers/lumiere_bio.html – Christie, Ian
http://www.photohistory-sussex.co.uk/dagprocess.htm – Osterman, Mark
http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/permanent/windows/southeast/eadweard_muybridge.html – Ransom,Harry, University of Texas
http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/permanent/firstphotograph/ – Ransom, Harry, University of Texas
http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/permanent/windows/southeast/eadweard_muybridge.html – Ransom, Harry, University of Texas
http://www.louisleprince.co.uk/ – Unknown
Links to historical pictures