Celebrating World Photography Day

On the 19th August, World Photography Day takes place as an annual worldwide celebration of the art, craft, science and history of photography; a day coined by respected Indian photographer, OP Sharma.

“The idea came to me in 1988 when, over and over again, in various publications that documented the history of photography, I came across this date: 19 August 1839” he told Harmony – Celebrate Age magazine. “It was recorded as the date on which the then French government announced the invention of the Daguerreotype process of photography as a ‘free gift to the world’.

“I proposed the idea to several masters and photographers around the world, about 150 of them, including the RPS and the Photographic Society of America (PSA)… by the beginning of 1991, everyone took an unanimous decision and we started celebrating World Photography Day that year.”

Daguerre, 1844

Louis Daguerre was the business partner of inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, whose heliography method is the forebear of the photographic process. Niépce’s image View From The Window At Le Gras, recorded on a polished pewter plate coated with a light-sensitive bitumen in 1826, is the earliest surviving permanent image from nature.

Daguerre, however, developed his own unique process following Niépce’s death in 1833. He invented the Daguerreotype in 1837, which was a positive image recorded on a copper plate coated with silver iodide. Latent images produced in-camera were developed by exposure to mercury vapor and were then fixed by a strong salt solution.

Daguerre sold his process to the French Academy of Sciences in exchange for an annual pension of 6,000 francs, in addition to an annual stipend of 4,000 francs to the Niépce estate. Full details were given ‘free to the world’ on 19th August 1839– except in Great Britain. Daguerre’s agent had already applied for a British patent just before the French government’s generous announcement, meaning photographers in Britain had to pay a licence.

Daguerre’s View Of The Boulevard Du Temple, taken from the window of his apartment in Paris in 1838, is an example of early street photography that includes the first known recorded image of a person.

Despite the photo being shot on a busy Parisian street, the 10-15 minute exposure meant none of the people and carriages stayed still long enough to be recorded. The only exception is a man having his shoes shined in the bottom-left corner. Whether his presence was a coincidence or a request from Daguerre himself, we will never know.

Since then, photographs have continued to permanently capture moments, people, places and experiences, each photo transcending the passing of time. Once again the 19th August will see photographers from all over the world share their work online using the hashtag #WorldPhotographyDay to connect with each other, showcase their favourite images as well as celebrate gift of photography to the world.

Feature Image: Daguerre’s view of the Boulevard du Temple, 1838