A Brief History of Photography

By Phin Upham

The discovery of the camera obscura was the first time the idea of photography became somewhat close to a reality, albeit one that still had a significant way to go to catch up to where we are today. What the camera obscura taught us is that the manipulation of light can alter the composition of an image, even displaying colors or fine details.

It wasn’t until the 1800s that this discovery became anything more than a novelty. Painting and drawing were the dominant art forms, and they seemed to do a fairly decent job of rendering the real. It wasn’t until humans began to shift away from imitating life that we began to seek methods of capturing moments from it.

Early photographs, like View From the Window at Les Gras, are best described as “crude”. Partially due to time, these early photographs don’t feature a large amount of detail, so it can be difficult to make out an image unless one is standing at a very specific distance and angle. Colors and details are not as vibrant, and many of these older photographs have experienced discoloration over time.

The process of chemical photography was difficult at first, but became popularized in the mid 1800s. The affordability of the photographic portrait made photography something that could be easily commoditized. The time it took to process and develop a photo was significantly shorter than it might take a painter to complete a portrait.

Except for some of the inner workings of the camera, and the advent of instant photos from Polaroid, not much changed about the industry until the advent of digital technology. Soon, a moderately priced camera could capture highly detailed images that could be printed anywhere remotely.

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or Twitter page.