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Selected Photographs from the 19th Century - Cameras of the 19th century

collection photography george house

George Eastman House and International Museum of Photography and Film

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce has been credited with creating the first photograph, titled “View from the Window at Le Gras.” It was taken in 1826 in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes, France. This picture, a heliograph on pewter, was made using a camera obscura. After an exposure of at least 8 hours, the camera obscura created a single, one-of-a-kind image. Reproduced here are three versions of that image. The first version was made at the Kodak Research Laboratory in Harrow, England. The rephotographing process produced a gelatin silver print in March 1952. The second version was created by Helmut Gernsheim and the Kodak Research Laboratory in Harrow, England. The second version, a gelatin silver print with applied watercolor reproduction was created March 20-21, 1952. It is interesting to note that Gernsheim, a well-know photographic collector, historian, and author had written several essays and consulted this encyclopedia’s first edition before creating the print. The most recent version of Niépce’s piece, produced in June 2002, was completed by the Harry Ransom Center and J. Paul Getty Museum.

The images on the following pages were selected by the editor to represent the pictorial evolution of the photograph and to include pictures that have not been published before. They have been arranged chronologically, starting at 1830 and concluding at the turn of the century. All images, except where noted, are courtesy of the Image Collection at the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, New York.

The photography collection at the George Eastman House International Museum includes more than 400,000 photographs and negatives dating from the invention of photography to the present day. The collection embraces numerous landmark processes, rare objects, and monuments of art history that trace the evolution of photography as a technology, as a means of scientific and historical documentation, and as one of the most potent and accessible means of personal expression in the modern era. More than 14,000 photographers are represented in the collection, including virtually all the major figures in the history of the medium. The collection includes original vintage works produced by nearly every process and printing medium employed. (For more information, go to http://www.eastmanhouse.org.)

Cameras of the 19th century

All images on the following pages are courtesy of the Technology Collection, George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester, New York. Comprising more than 16,000 objects, the George Eastman House technology collection is one of the world’s largest collections of photographic and cinematographic equipment. It contains 19th- and 20th-century objects of photographic technology, including cameras, processing equipment, motion-picture devices, and a broad range of early historical accessories. Many of the objects are unique, representing distinguished historical ownership and significant scientific achievement.

This collection is the most comprehensive held by any institution in North America and is equaled in overall quality by only three other holdings worldwide. From devices that predate the formal invention of photography in 1839 to the most modern state-of-the-art instruments used by both amateurs and professionals, the collection offers visitors an unparalleled opportunity to examine and learn about photographic technology.

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