At Kerrisdale Capital, we try to conduct thorough research into a range of industries. One of the industries that I’ve written about, in the course of my work with Kerrisdale Capital, is the photography industry. Clearly, this is an industry which has changed a great deal over the last few decades, with the rise of digital photography, mobile phones, and the internet. In this article, I discuss the history of the camera and of photography. Keep reading to learn more about the roots of our modern photography industry.

Sahm Adrangi on the Roots of Photography

The word “photography” is taken from two Greek words which, together, mean “drawing with light.” “Graphe” is the Greek for “drawing,” while “phos” means “light.”

Photography didn’t develop until the 19th century. But as early as the Renaissance, artists were using a primitive “camera obscura” in their work. A camera obscura is a dark box with a pinhole to let in light. When the pinhole is focused on a bright object, the image of that object is naturally projected (upside down) onto the opposite screen of the camera obscura. Renaissance artists used to trace the image projected in the box, as a means of learning to draw realistically.

Sahm Adrangi on the Origins of Photography

The earliest precursor of the modern photograph was probably the heliograph, which was invented in the year 1824 by a Frenchman named Nicephore Niepce. In order to take an image, Niepce dissolved a light-sensiitive material called bitumen of Judea in oil of lavender; he used this mixture to coat a polished pewter plate which he then placed inside a camera obscura. Niepce was able to make prints of the scene outside his window by means of the camera obscura and the coated pewter plates.

history photography

Shortly afterwards, in 1838, Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre found a way to create images with a much shorter exposure time. He used a silver plate which he coated with a thin layer of silver iodide to create his “daguerreotypes.”

Sahm Adrangi on the Development of Color Photography

The earliest color photographs were produced in 1869 by Louis Ducos du Hauron. He created the color photos through a complex process: du Hauron first made photographs using colored filters, one for each of the primary colors, and then superimposed them on top of one another.

Later, the Laumiere brothers, Louis and Auguste, invented an autochrome plate which could take color photos, eliminating the need to layer different photos on top of one another.

Sahm Adrangi on the Digital Photograph

During my time at Kerrisdale Capital I have had occasion to study the modernization of the photograph industry. With the advent of the digital camera and the rise of the mobile phone, the industry has been changed in ways that the early pioneers of photography could never have imagined.


Sahm Adrangi founded Kerrisdale Capital in 2009 and has been CIO of Kerrisdale since then. Kerrisdale Capital is known for short selling and publishing research. Sahm Adrangi first made a name for himself when he shorted, and exposed, a number of fraudulent Chinese companies. Those companies were later subject to investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Sahm Adrangi is a graduate of Yale.