- ancient times: Camera obscuras used to form images on walls in
darkened rooms; image formation via a pinhole
- 16th century: Brightness and clarity of camera obscuras improved
by enlarging the hole inserting a telescope lens
- 17th century: Camera obscuras in frequent use by artists and made
portable in the form of sedan chairs
- 1727: Professor J. Schulze mixes chalk, nitric acid, and silver in
a flask; notices darkening on side of flask exposed to sunlight. Accidental creation of the first photo-sensitive compound.
- 1800: Thomas Wedgwood makes "sun pictures" by placing opaque
objects on leather treated with silver nitrate; resulting images
deteriorated rapidly, however, if displayed under light stronger than
- 1816: Nicéphore Niépce combines the camera obscura
with photosensitive paper
- 1826: Niépce creates a permanent image
- 1834: Henry Fox Talbot creates permanent (negative) images using
paper soaked in silver chloride and fixed with a salt solution.
Talbot created positive images by contact printing onto another sheet
- 1837: Louis Daguerre creates images on silver-plated copper,
coated with silver iodide and "developed" with warmed mercury;
Daguerre is awarded a state pension by the French government in
exchange for publication of methods and the rights by other French
citizens to use the Daguerreotype process.
- 1841: Talbot patents his process under the name "calotype".
- 1851: Frederick Scott Archer, a sculptor in London, improves
photographic resolution by spreading a mixture of collodion (nitrated
cotton dissolved in ether and alcoohol) and chemicals on sheets of
glass. Wet plate collodion photography was much cheaper than
daguerreotypes, the negative/positive process permitted unlimited
reproductions, and the process was published but not patented.
- 1853: Nadar (Felix Toumachon) opens his portrait studio in Paris
- 1854: Adolphe Disderi develops carte-de-visite photography
in Paris, leading to worldwide boom in portrait studios for the next
- 1855: Beginning of stereoscopic era
- 1855-57: Direct positive images on glass (ambrotypes) and metal
(tintypes or ferrotypes) popular in the US.
- 1861: Scottish physicist James Clerk-Maxwell demonstrates a color
photography system involving three black and white photographs, each
taken through a red, green, or blue filter. The photos were turned
into lantern slides and projected in registration with the same color
filters. This is the "color separation" method.
- 1861-65: Mathew Brady and staff (mostly staff) covers the American
Civil War, exposing 7000 negatives
- 1868: Ducas de Hauron publishes a book proposing a variety of
methods for color photography.
- 1870: Center of period in which the US Congress sent photographers
out to the West. The most famous images were taken by William
Jackson and Tim O'Sullivan.
- 1871: Richard Leach Maddox, an English doctor, proposes the use
of an emulsion of gelatin and silver bromide on a glass plate, the
"dry plate" process.
- 1877: Eadweard Muybridge, born in England as Edward Muggridge,
settles "do a horse's four hooves ever leave the ground at once" bet
among rich San Franciscans by time-sequenced photography of Leland
- 1878: Dry plates being manufactured commercially.
- 1880: George Eastman, age 24, sets up Eastman Dry Plate Company
in Rochester, New York. First half-tone photograph appears in a daily
newspaper, the New York Graphic.
- 1888: First Kodak camera, containing a 20-foot roll of paper,
enough for 100 2.5-inch diameter circular pictures.
- 1889: Improved Kodak camera with roll of film instead of paper
- 1890: Jacob Riis publishes How the Other Half Lives,
images of tenament life in New york City
- 1900: Kodak Brownie box roll-film camera introduced.
- 1902: Alfred Stieglitz organizes "Photo Secessionist" show in New
- 1906: Availability of panchromatic black and white film and
therefore high quality color separation color photography. J.P. Morgan
finances Edward Curtis to document the traditional culture of the North American Indian.
- 1907: First commercial color film, the Autochrome plates,
manufactured by Lumiere brothers in France
- 1909: Lewis Hine hired by US National Child Labor Committee to
photograph children working mills.
- 1914: Oscar Barnack, employed by German microscope manufacturer
Leitz, develops camera using the modern 24x36mm frame and sprocketed
35mm movie film.
- 1917: Nippon Kogaku K.K., which will eventually become Nikon,
established in Tokyo.
- 1921: Man Ray begins making photograms ("rayographs") by placing
objects on photographic paper and exposing the shadow cast by a distant
light bulb; Eugegrave;ne Atget, aged 64, assigned to photograph the brothels
- 1924: Leitz markets a derivative of Barnack's camera commercially
as the "Leica", the first high quality 35mm camera.
- 1925: André Kertész moves from his native Hungary to
Paris, where he begins an 11-year project photographing street life
- 1928: Albert Renger-Patzsch publishes The World is
Beautiful, close-ups emphasizing the form of natural and
man-made objects; Rollei introduces the Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex
producing a 6x6 cm image on rollfilm.; Karl Blossfeldt publishes
Art Forms in Nature
- 1931: Development of strobe photography by Harold ("Doc") Edgerton at MIT
- 1932: Inception of Technicolor for movies, where three black and
white negatives were made in the same camera under different filters;
Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Willard Van Dyke, Edward Weston, et al,
form Group f/64 dedicated to "straight photographic thought and
production".; Henri Cartier-Bresson buys a Leica and begins a 60-year
career photographing people; On March 14, George Eastman, aged 77, writes suicide
note--"My work is done. Why wait?"--and shoots himself.
- 1933: Brassaï publishes Paris de nuit
- 1934: Fuji Photo Film founded. By 1938, Fuji is making cameras and
lenses in addition to film.
- 1935: Farm Security Administration hires Roy Stryker to run a
historical section. Stryker would hire Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange,
Arthur Rothstein, et al. to photograph rural hardships over the next
six years. Roman Vishniac
begins his project of the soon-to-be-killed-by-their-neighbors Jews of Central and Eastern Europe.
- 1936: Development of Kodachrome, the first color multi-layered
color film; development of Exakta, pioneering 35mm single-lens reflex
- World War II:
- Development of multi-layer color negative films
- Margaret Bourke-White, Robert Capa, Carl Mydans, and W. Eugene Smith
cover the war for LIFE magazine
- 1947: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, and David Seymour start
the photographer-owned Magnum picture agency
- 1948: Hasselblad in Sweden offers its first medium-format SLR for
commercial sale; Pentax in Japan introduces the automatic diaphragm;
Polaroid sells instant black and white film
- 1949: East German Zeiss develops the Contax S, first SLR with an
unreversed image in a pentaprism viewfinder
- 1955: Edward Steichen curates Family of Man exhibit at New York's
Museum of Modern Art
- 1959: Nikon F introduced.
- 1960: Garry Winogrand begins photographing women on the streets of
New York City.
- 1963: First color instant film developed by Polaroid; Instamatic
released by Kodak; first purpose-built underwater introduced, the
- 1970: William Wegman begins photographing
his Weimaraner, Man Ray.
- 1972: 110-format cameras introduced by Kodak with a 13x17mm frame
- 1973: C-41 color negative process introduced, replacing C-22
- 1975: Nicholas Nixon takes his first annual photograph of his wife
and her sisters: "The Brown Sisters";
Steve Sasson at Kodak builds the first working CCD-based digital still camera
- 1976: First solo show of color photographs at the Museum of Modern Art,
William Eggleston's Guide
- 1977: Cindy Sherman begins work on Untitled Film
Stills, completed in 1980; Jan Groover
begins exploring kitchen utensils
- 1978: Hiroshi Sugimoto begins work on seascapes.
- 1980: Elsa Dorfman begins making portraits with the 20x24" Polaroid.
- 1982: Sony demonstrates Mavica "still video" camera
- 1983: Kodak introduces disk camera, using an 8x11mm frame (the
same as in the Minox spy camera)
- 1985: Minolta markets the world's first autofocus SLR system
(called "Maxxum" in the US);
In the American West by Richard Avedon
- 1988: Sally Mann begins publishing nude photos of
- 1987: The popular Canon EOS system introduced, with new all-electronic lens mount
- 1990: Adobe Photoshop released.
- 1991: Kodak DCS-100, first digital SLR, a modified Nikon F3
- 1992: Kodak introduces PhotoCD
- 1993: Founding of photo.net (by me!), an early Internet online community;
Sebastiao Salgado publishes Workers;
Mary Ellen Mark
publishes book documenting life in an Indian circus.
- 1995: Material World, by Peter Menzel published.
- 1997: Rob Silvers publishes Photomosaics
- 1999: Nikon D1 SLR, 2.74 megapixel for $6000,
first ground-up DSLR design by a leading manufacturer. photo.net adds
a database-backed photo-sharing library for users.
- 2000: Camera phone introduced in Japan by Sharp/J-Phone
- 2001: Polaroid goes bankrupt
- 2002: T-Mobile Sidekick (Danger Hiptop), the first "app phone", introduced
- 2003: Four-Thirds standard for compact digital SLRs introduced
with the Olympus E-1; Canon Digital Rebel introduced for less than
- 2004: Kodak ceases production of film cameras; Flickr photo-sharing service launches.
- 2005: Canon EOS 5D, first consumer-priced full-frame digital SLR, with a 24x36mm CMOS sensor for $3000;
Portraits by Rineke Dijkstra
- 2006: Konica/Minolta exists camera and film business, selling some assets to Sony. DJI founded.
- 2007: iPhone introduced; photo.net acquired by NameMedia
- 2010: Sony E-mount mirrorless system introduced (NEX-5)
- 2012: Kodak goes bankrupt
- 2013: Sony A7 full-frame mirrorless camera announced.
- 2017: Hasselblad acquired by DJI.
- 2018: Canon discontinues the EOS-1V, its final
film camera. Boston Institute of Contemporary Art closes Nicholas
Nixon show early due to #MeToo allegations. Photographers accused of
sexual harassment or misconduct in New York Times and Boston Globe
include Bruce Weber, Mario Testino, Patrick Demarchelier, etc.