The invention of the photograph, in 1839, would forever change the way people looked at the world. But this extraordinary breakthrough cannot be credited to a single individual—while William Henry Fox Talbot labored quietly in England, Louis Daguerre toiled separately in France, with the announcements of their discoveries coming weeks apart. Learn about the unusual pursuit that led Talbot to his crucial innovation.

…as well as the pursuits of other Pioneers of Photography, a series of shorts from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, animated by Drew Christie and Dane Herforth.

Below, the story of Julia Margaret Cameron, a well-connected woman in late 1800s London society who converted her chicken coop into a photo studio and took portraits of her famous friends. Though her photographic style wasn’t appreciated by her contemporaries, it’s now considered to be groundbreaking in the medium’s early history. Watch Pictures from a Glass House: Julia Margaret Cameron’s Portraits.

Below, the life of Carleton Watkins, “who loaded a team of mules with his mammoth-plate camera and glass negatives and ventured into Yosemite Valley. The pictures he made there helped lay the foundation for American landscape photography, before the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 destroyed much of his life’s work.”

Eadweard Muybridge is famous for his pioneering photographic studies of animal locomotion and his invention of the zoopraxiscope. The animation also reveals his tumultuous life, including his aquittal for taking someone’s life. Slices of time: Eadweard Muybridge’s cinematic legacy.

And finally, the work of Man Ray, the Dada and Surrealist artist whose light experiments expanded photography in innovative new ways.

Through an accident in the darkroom, he soon discovered a new means of creating photos without a camera. Meet the artist who committed “crimes against chemistry and photography,” as he described it, and produced some of the most memorable and iconic pictures of his time.

Next, watch Photography, from camera obscura to camera phone, Incredibly detailed insect portraits by Levon Biss, The Beauty of Space Photography, and lots of zoetropes.

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