At the 1851 London World’s Fair, the exhibition on photography was classified under the title “Philosophical Instruments,” along with such inventions as barometers.
Initially, the instruments used for Photography were complicated. They needed specialised skills to handle these instruments. Even more specialised skills were needed to develop the photographs. It was not possible for anyone and everyone to develop and print photographs. So, in that sense, classifying photography instrument alongside Barometer made sense.
Even about 30 years back, when I used a Click3 camera, there was so much to do to be able to take photographs. Even a novice needed learning aspects like aperture, etc. before being able to photograph. The needs for people like me was more economics than anything else. 12 photographs could be taken using one roll that fit in Click3. And as the rolls were much expensive compared to my allowances, it was very difficult to waste even one shot. So, there needed some knowledge of shutter speed settings, etc. that needed learning. Also, developing those shots was only possible from a studio. The Camera had to carried to the Studio, where the roll had to be taken out in a dark room before the Studio would proceed to develop the same.
Some 2-3 years later, when my father got me a Russian camera, it was now possible to take 36 photographs using one roll. However, initially we had the raw camera roll, which had to be fit into the cassette. To do this, we would cover ourselves under thick blanket and then take out the roll from its black cover and fit it in the cassette. Once done, we would load the cassette into the camera. Again, due to economics, we had to be extremely cautious about taking photographs as development was expensive. Once the roll was consumed, we had to wind it backwards so that the roll was completely back in the cassette before we could open the camera to take out the cassette. There were so many instances when I lost all the photographs as I opened the camera without rolling the exposed film back in the camera.
Though these are not any technical skills, there was a defined process which one needed knowing. So, the focus was more on the skills of using the instrument than focusing on taking the photographs.
Matters became much simpler when I bought a Canon EOS 888. Now, the hassles of loading the film, etc. was much simplified. Also, any novice, like my daughters aged less than 10 years, could take photographs by just clicking. It was now slowly turning to an art as the main focus was on composing the image and then shooting. However, the dependence on the studio remained and still photography was relatively expensive. For being able to use the photographs for making websites, etc. I needed buying a scanner.
Today, when I use a digital camera, there has been a complete transformation. Now, to me instrument is just a toy. The usage has been made so simple. Even without being a professional photographer, I can adjust the camera to take good photographs. Then, I can print the photographs for different use like submitting for passports, etc. sitting at home. It is possible to touch up the photographs using Photoshop to convey a message.
So, in essence, over the last 25 to 30 years, the Science part of Photography has gradually been replaced by the Art part of Photography. Camera is no longer a complex technical instrument. It is just a toy. If 30 years of experience could change the paradigm, it is only natural that more than 200 years ago photography must have been considered as a rather complex monster.