So you want to know about photography!

Annie Patiño-Marin
Artist and designer working with editorial, photography, printmaking, audio, and film.

Jan 03,2018

What is photography?

Photography is part of daily life. You have taken pictures, you have been in pictures, and you see pictures every day. What is photography though? This article series will tackle any questions you may have and highlight the medium’s possibilities.

The origin of the word ‘photography’ comes from the Greek language. Phōtos meaning ‘light’ and graphé roughly meaning ‘drawing’, photography means ‘drawing with light’, or ‘light drawing’. A poetic name for an exciting and complex method.

Early History

Although we haven’t had photographs for very long, the concept of a camera started almost 1000 years ago!

Around the year 1021 CE, Iraqi physicist Ibn al-Haytham (or Alhazen) created the Camera Obscura, which is Latin for Dark Room. Alhazen made a pinhole camera after observing how light traveled through a window shutter and reflected the image outside, but mirrored. He realized too that the smaller the hole, the sharper the image reflected. This method, using a dark box or a dark room with a small hole, became widely used to reflect images and trace them on walls or paper, aiding illustrators and painters for many centuries and even today. Much later, Italian Giambattista della Porta improved the camera obscura by replacing the hole with an actual single lens, like a monocle eye-glass.  

Fast-forwarding to the 18th century, the first person known to have thought of creating permanent pictures using the camera obscura was Englishman Thomas Wedgwood. He figured he could capture the reflected images onto paper by coating the paper with light-sensitive chemicals. It is known he managed to capture silhouetted images, but was unable to stop them from disappearing when exposed to light for a longer period of time.

The next 100 years saw a boom in experimentation with light sensitive chemicals, which brought us photography, as we know it.

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