Photography comes from Greek and translates to "Drawing with Light".
It's fitting then that the history of photography began in ancient times with the discovery of "Camera Obscura" which is when images are formed on the wall of a darkened room via the light from a pinhole. You can even make your own!
A French inventor named Nicéphore Niépce made the first permanent photograph in 1826 using silver and chalk which reacted to the exposure of light. It took several days of exposure to form a crude image.
Niépce's associate, Louis Daguerre, perfected the process by using silver-plated copper coated with silver iodide that was then developed with warmed mercury in 1837. His invention required only minutes of exposure to light and is known as a Daguerreotype. It was made available commercially in 1839. This is the generally accepted birth year of photography.
In Britain, Henry Fox Talbot invented the Calotype in 1834. His process used paper soaked in silver chloride that was then stabilized with a salt solution after exposure to light. The Calotype and Daguerreotype were the main competing photographic processes for a while. You may have noticed the year the Calotype was invented precedes the Daguerreotype, so you might also guess that there's still debate today about who really is the father of modern photography!
The Daguerreotype became extremely popular for creating portraits during the Industrial Revolution. It created a clearer picture than the Calotype did. However it was on metal so the image had to be viewed from just the right angle, which is why some photographers preferred the Calotype for other uses like landscapes. Both were cheaper, faster, and more readily accessible than oil painting for a growing middle class.
Many more processes emerged over the next few years. The collodian process was invented by Frederick Scott Archer in 1851. It was done by spreading a mixture of collodian (nitrated cotton dissolved in ether and alcohol) with chemicals on a sheet of glass. Wet plate collodian photographs made it possible to make crisper images that were also cheaper. It also made it possible to create unlimited copies of images, something that couldn't be done with Daguerreotypes or Calotypes. Printed copies of images were made on albumen (egg white) paper until the introduction of gelatin in 1871.
However, the processes for making photographs was still quite complex and only done by professionals. That was until 1888 when George Eastman introduced the Kodak camera, the camera that anyone could use. Their slogan said "You press the button, we do the rest." In 1901 the Kodak Brownie became available which revolutionized the photography world by making it truly accessible to everyone.
Photography has been growing by leaps and bounds ever since. Could any of the first pioneers have imagined a phenomenon like Instagram, a camera phone that fits in your pocket, or that we would be replicating their style of portraits in an olde tyme photo studio?