- Pioneers: 1840s–60s
- The art of photography: 1880s–1910s
- Views and portraits: 1860s–80s
- Modern times: 1920s–40s
The daguerreotype and early photography on paper
Two photographic processes made their debut in Europe in January 1839. The daguerreotype – developed by the French painter Louis-Jacques Mandé Daguerre – was the most impressive, capturing mirror-sharp images on small polished metal plates.
The rival process, photogenic drawing – developed by the British scientist and amateur artist William Henry Fox Talbot – produced soft negative images on sheets of writing paper. Both processes produced a single and unique image.
In 1841, Talbot patented an improved process, the calotype, through which many positive paper prints could be produced from a master paper negative, making it possible for photographs to be published in large editions.
While the daguerreotype portrait dominated photographic production in the early years, with commercial portrait studios opening in Europe and America from 1841, photography on paper proved suitable for amateur use and for the production of folios of prints and book illustrations. The photographic industry was born and immediately exported worldwide.