The Inventors of Photography

Pierre Harmant, in his essay, Anno Lucis 1839, identified 24 claimants to the invention of photography. Of these he methodically eliminated all but four, Louis Daguerre, Fox Talbot, Mungo Ponton, and Albrecht Breyer. His reasoning was that one photography was not invented, but “photographies”. That is that several forms or concepts were invented mostly around the same timeline.

Geoffrey Batchen in his 1999 book, Burning With Desire: The Conception of Photography, like Harmant, documents in detail the numerous contenders for the invention of photography. But he also more importantly, explores the conception of photography. That is, the idea of photography, and more precisely, the idea of capturing an image from nature permanently.

Josef Maria Eder in his seminal book, “History of Photography”, originally written in German and first published in 1891, but continuously revised until 1932 (German edition), anointed Johann Heinrich Schulze as the true inventor of photography because of his discovery in 1727 of the light sensitivity nature of silver salts.

But it was the French inventor Nicephore Niepce who was one of the earliest inventors of photography producing the first known and extant photograph in 1826. Although his process was the precursor to the Daguerreotype he was little known and appreciated until his life’s work was recorded by numerous author’s.

It was the second inventor of photography, Willian Henry Fox Talbot, whose “system” of photography proved to be his lasting legacy and the system we still use today. I point you to William Henry Fox Talbot – A Selected Annotated Bibliography.