Humans have an insatiable need to document things, and have been actively doing so ever since we gained access to coloured pigments and cave walls. Even though our writing and drawing materials have changed over time, our core desire to understand the world around us hasn’t changed too much (even if our technology has).
That is why, when French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce took the first photograph in 1826 — a shot taken from the upstairs windows of the Niépce Estate in Burgundy — it altered the way we viewed and documented the world.
In the 190 years since Niépce’s first photograph, photography has evolved dramatically, often in surprising ways. Here are some unforgettable facts you never knew about photography:
The first “SnapChat”
Even though Niépce’s photograph was a breakthrough, the process had one major drawback: exposure time. It took eight straight hours of sunlight to create the photograph, which faded soon after — in a way, it was the world’s first SnapChat.
The first selfie
Robert Cornelius, a chemistry student from the US, was fascinated with early photography. That’s why he took the first selfie in 1939 — and no, he did not do a duck face.
Doom and gloom
The reason why people look unhappy in old, Victorian photographs is because exposure took a really long time, and it was near impossible to keep up a smile.
Today, humans snap as many photographs in two minutes as all of humanity did in the 19th century.
Kodak was the first company to build a working digital camera. It weighed 3.6kg, stored images on cassette tape, had a 0.01 megapixel resolution and took 23 seconds to expose each image.
In China, instead of telling subjects to say “cheese”, photographers instead ask if “the watermelon is sweet”, to which the subjects reply “Tian!” or “Sweet!” in Mandarin.