Term Paper: Silver Base to Digital Photography

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Silver Base to Digital Photography

The photography appeared as the result of two experiences. First, there was the discovery that some materials are sensitive to light. Second, there was the discovery of the black room. The word camera comes from Italian and it means "room." Even from the Renaissance ages, the box had been used to fixate drawings on paper or glass. The first use of this technique was to make a wooden box that would have one opening covered with a glass plaque that the artist used to see through and frame the image or trace it on paper. After that, some artists experimented with silhouettes, where a single light was placed in a dark room, and a thin paper or cloth was positioned in front of it, creating a silhouette image that could be directly traced on the paper.

The word photography comes from the Greek words phos ("light"), and graphis ("stylus," "paintbrush") or graph, together meaning "drawing with light." The use of the black box to isolate the light and capture only the necessary amount for fixating the image on the film or paper was the official beginning of photography. The discovery of photosensitive materials dates back to ancient times, when some people observed that, when an object was left on a green leaf under the sun for a leghtly amount of time, the leaf would draw the shape of that object. The first experiments happened around the XVII century when it was discovered that silver chloride turned black when exposed to light.

There were many attempts until the XIX century to capture drawings or images using the reaction to light, but the resulting work always deteriorated. In 1816 Joseph-Nicephore Niepce succeeded to capture the first negative images, using paper treated with silver chloride but failed to fixate the image. He managed to achieve positive images using a pewter plate covered with a petroleum derivative called bitumen of Judea. Although ti was successful there were still many problems to cover. He received the reversed image, and the exposure took hours to fixate the picture, which caused the sun to move and alter the position of the light. Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre, interested in Niepce's work conducted his own researches. In 1835 he published his first results, called daguerreotype. This was a sheet of silver-coated copper, treated with iodine vapor. He achieved to reduce the exposure time to 30 minutes, achieving a barely visible image that he later revealed with mercury vapor and fixated with salty hot water.

The Daguerreotype proved popular in responding to the demand for portraiture emerging from the middle classes during the Industrial Revolution. This demand, which could not be met in volume and in cost by oil painting, added to the push for the development of photography." At about the same time, the British William Henry Fox Talbot achieved to print images on paper treated with silver chloride that he placed over another to obtain a positive. He called this calotype. Talbot introduced the use of sodium thiosulfate as fixative, which is still in use today. He also reduced the time of exposing, learning the main importance of the revealing process.

At that time "some artists saw in photography a threat to their livelihood and some even prophesied that painting would cease to exist," while other painters discovered the use of photography for their own benefit, as they learned how to project an image over an oil-coated paper film. This allowed them to make quick sketches, having the disadvantage of a reversed image and reduced size. Later they discovered new techniques using egg white that allowed the image itself to be printed on the paper. This evolved through many experiments with chemical process and continuous research of different materials.

The next step was to create a hermetic box, with a photosensitive paper hidden inside, protected from light. A glass slip would allow the light to penetrate inside the camera, enough time to print the image on the film. Silver halides were useful in photography because they are developable, which means they can be amplified with gain in sensitivity.

In 1884, George Eastman introduced the first film roll and in 1888 the first camera, Kodak, loaded with film, made photography accessible to the masses. After that the accent was placed on the camera technology, the lenses, the exposure variations and mechanical film printing process and other innovations that helped make photography more accurate. The development of the camera into a smaller size, easier to handle, that turned it into a mobile object, allowed the artist to experiment with different angles and distances, capturing subjective elements for the photos and the art of portrait became more popular than ever. As the necessary exposure time became shorter photography concentrated on moving subjects, such as the passing crowds of the big cities. It became a tool that illustrated the modern world.

The digital camera that appeared on 1990, after the CD took over the market, follows the same principles of the analogical camera, since both conduct light to the interior through optic. The first one projects the image over a negative; the second directs it towards an electronic sensor that can interpret light in digital language in a numeric system. When the camera is shot, light reaches the CCD sensor that contains millions of squares, called pixels, which form the image when they receive the light. When the CCD has a million squares it is called a megapixel (MP) of resolution. Initial digital camera designs were small dedicated black and white devices of relatively low resolutions. To visualize the pictures the camera offers two devices: the optical visor, which is present on analogical camera as well, and the LCD screen, which permits to view the picture seconds after it was taken. It allows pictures to be saved or deleted for later printing on paper.

Since the appearance of digital photography there has been plenty of debating about which kind of art has more value. The theories that classic photography is bound to completely disappear is little probable as it keeps an artistic value hard to reach by the digital technology. In the same way that black-and-white photography has not disappeared even after almost a century since the invention of color prints. The reason for this is that silver images have their own visual appeal as they concentrate on images more than the optical illusions created by color.

There is no denying of the artistic value of silver photography. It required a very keen perception of light and contrast and an effect of contours hard to equal by digital photography. It is hard to compare both styles, as they focus on different things. Silver photography is mainly aided to display contrast and lines, while digital photography is more about capturing color effects. While some will sustain that colors are an active part of the world, and therefore the value of photography lies better in the optical illusion of color, it is also true that silver photography is harder to achieve in quality, since the picture is based only on lines and shadows.

The difference between both styles is mainly a technical one. In essence they both seek the same goal, to capture a good image, clear and eloquent. The difference is the technique and possibilities that apply to each. Digital photo has the advantage of showing immediately the resulting effect, so it can be corrected if the result is not the desired one. One of the hazards of silver photography was the time lost between the taking process and the developing, which kept the artists in suspense about the resulting image. It brought the risk of losing the moment if the effect was not the satisfactory one. There is also the detail that silver photography demanded a craftsmanship,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Silver Base to Digital Photography.  (2007, January 14).  Retrieved June 20, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/silver-base-digital-photography/19898

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"Silver Base to Digital Photography."  Essaytown.com.  January 14, 2007.  Accessed June 20, 2019.
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