In this article I’m going to discuss the history of professional photography, and the way that the role has developed over the past 170-something years.
History in the making
Announced in 1839, photography is a relatively new medium, and initially there was no such thing as “professional photography”. The very first practitioners were wealthy gentleman amateurs: the newly invented medium was not simple to use, and required an understanding of physics and chemistry, plus substantial amounts of money to buy the equipment and materials.
There were other obstacles too: initially the light-sensitive daguerreotype plates were actually so insensitive to light that it was impossible to photograph anything other than buildings or landscapes – people couldn’t keep still for the long exposure times required. Here’s an example of a daguerreotype from 1841, two years after its public announcement.