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Thread: Alternate History of Photography: how early could it have been invented?

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    Drew Bedo's Avatar
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    Alternate History of Photography: how early could it have been invented?

    Sometimes just knowing tjhat something is possible is all it takes.

    We all know that the Daguerreotype process was announced in 1839. That it was so widely used so rspidly attests to the practicality of the process and the strong demand for images.

    But how early in time was it possible? Was the technology available before 1820 or 1800 even? Mercury and Silver were known in ancient times. Optical quality glass technology as early as Galileo in the 1500s. I am thinking that Iodine was the latest basic item in the process to become available. . . .but when?

    If someone actually KNEW what to do to create a lasting image on Silver, how early could it have been done?

    Same question for the salted papers and albumin processes thet Fox-Talbut worked with . . If one knew how then how early could it have been done? Is the availability of Silver Nitrate the technology that sets the time limit here?
    Drew Bedo
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    Re: Alternet History oof P;hotography:

    The problem wasn't making the images, but of keeping them from fading.
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

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    Drew Bedo's Avatar
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    Re: Alternet History oof P;hotography:

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill_1856 View Post
    The problem wasn't making the images, but of keeping them from fading.
    Right: I understood that the key was under exposing and developing the latent image image with Mercury vapor.
    Drew Bedo
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    Re: Alternet History oof P;hotography:

    According to Helmut Gernsheim (A Concise History of Photography Dover Publicns NY) the light sensitivity of silver salts was discovered in the early 18th century by German Schultze and later investigated by Swede Scheele. I think Bill has a good point, "fixing" the image was a vital part of the process that came later.

    The production of a sensitized Daguerrotype plate required a combination of silver metal, mercury vapor and the vapor of halides, initially iodine, later also bromine and chlorine. I agree silver and mercury were known to the ancients however possibly it was the availability of these halogens, in the form of purified chemicals, that held back the image forming process until the 19th century. According to Wikipedia Iodine was isolated in 1811, Bromine in 1825. Daguerre and Niepce were working on the photographic process in the 1820s and 1830s. Fox-Talbot was experimenting with sensitized paper processes at about the same time.
    Last edited by Ted R; 6-May-2017 at 08:34.

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    Re: Alternate History of Photography: how early could it have been invented?

    Thomas Wedgewood was making images using silver nitrate probably before 1800, but they were not permanent—although a photogram of a leaf has turned up that possibly was done by him and if it is true would be the earliest photograph known to still exist. Basically through a good-old-boy network in Britain of various scientists and experimenters it was discovered how to fix the light-sensitive images on paper and make them permanent. This was done ultimately by Henry Fox Talbot in 1839 who announced the process about a month after Louis Daguerre announced his. The rest is history...

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    Drew Bedo's Avatar
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    Re: Alternate History of Photography: how early could it have been invented?

    Thanks everyone . . .all good stuff.

    So given that a mythical time traveler dropped into the past with full knowledge of the process: The earliest that he could have made a Daguerreotype was constrained by the isolation of Iodine, say 1820-ish.
    Drew Bedo
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    Re: Alternate History of Photography: how early could it have been invented?

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Bedo View Post
    ...So given that a mythical time traveler dropped into the past with full knowledge of the process: The earliest that he could have made a Daguerreotype was constrained by the isolation of Iodine, say 1820-ish.
    If this time traveler dropped into the past with that knowledge, why didn't he also know how to isolate iodine?

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    Re: Alternate History of Photography: how early could it have been invented?

    I'd find a copy of the book "Latent Image" by Beaumont Newhall.
    Of course someone *could* have invented photography before Daguerre and Talbot, but in all of human history, no one did. Theirs was no small achievement.
    Or to quote the late Jim Harrison, from his autobigraphy 'Off to the Side': "My life could have turned out differently, but it didn't."

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    Drew Bedo's Avatar
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    Re: Alternate History of Photography: how early could it have been invented?

    Ten years ago I took a workshop with Jerry Spagnoli at the Photographer's Forumlary campus in Mopntana (it was great). If I walked out the door just now, I wouild bring along a working knowledge of how to creat a Daguerreotype . . .but not how to get crystalline Iodine except to place an order with the good folks at PF (are they still in business?)
    Drew Bedo
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    Re: Alternate History of Photography: how early could it have been invented?

    Well, Fred Flintstone had that "Polarock" camera with the little bird pecking away quickly, finally saying "It's a living"... :-#

    Steve K

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