Camera: Photography, an art or science? A never ending debate!
There are various conclusions to say it is an art. Yes, I agree it’s all in the eyes of the beholder.
For the sake of science, photography is nowhere without the chemicals and the inventions of the lens. I agree with this too.
I am not going to make any conclusion here. To be honest, this debate dithers. Yet, I am here to get into another part; the History. By history, I mean not just what happened long ago, but what changed history long ago. Photography was one of the protagonists in changing the world into a better place for all. It is still doing the job quite vividly. So, I say Photography is history!
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A little history of Camera is no bad
The camera has its own history dating long back. Let’s consider the breakthrough inventions alone (sticking to the sub-title, “little” history).
During the Renaissance period (the 1400s) the concept named camera Obscura was invented. The first-ever demonstration of the Obscura concept is that in a dark room with a tiny hole on one of the walls allowing light to pass through creates an inverted image on the other side of the wall. Pretty simple right! Yet this simple concept had made scientists and inventors go crazy and they delved in.
The camera obscura was used by many Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.
The later Obscura concept was re-invented with additional features like allowing the same to happen in a box-like structure, named Pinhole camera. Shutters (from curtains, bladed which just drops by gravity to lens shutters), inserting a light-sensitive chemical coated plate, and more enhancements were added on to complete the camera.
The portable version of the Obscura happened in the late 1500s, where the artist used the camera for drawing images. The image obtained through the camera had delicate and every information for accurate drawing. They traced the obtained image and people called it photography; “writing with light”.
Later in the 17th-century people discovered they can obtain great pictures using a convex lens. At first, such a lens was used for eyeglasses. And the growing interest in telescopes and microscopes led to the development of better-performing lenses.
Writing with light (Photography)
Joseph Nicéphore Niépce and Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre are the inventors who changed the use of the camera. No more just a drawing device, cameras became “Mirror Memory”. That is, cameras produced images in a printed form.
Joseph Nicéphore Niépce
While in the process of experimenting with new techniques to improve lithography printing, the French scientist in the 1820s discovered a way to print a copy in glass and pewter plates using bitumen (a form of asphalt that changes when exposed to light). He placed the drawing coated with oil on a bitumen-coated plate and exposed it to sunlight. The sunlight burnt through the drawing image into the dark bitumen, creating a perfect copy of the image.
Later in 1826 Niépce used the bitumen-coated plate to the camera obscura, and placed the camera facing out of the window in his estate in France for 8 hours. The resulting image, “View from the Window at Le Gras” is the earliest camera photography still in existence.
Louis Jacques Mandé Dauerre
In the same year, 1826, Niépce shared his discovery with Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, an artist, and theatrical designer. Daguerre owned a theatre in Paris where large, painted scenes were shown in series.
In 1829, Niépce and Daguerre became partners and began their experiments together. Luck wasn’t in the favor of Niépce, it’s only in 1835, two years after his death, Daguerre came up with the most important discovery. He discovered that silver iodide was much more sensitive to light than bitumen.
The process Daguerreotype, invented by Daguerre was announced to the world on January 7, 1839. This announcement became sensational and a gift to the world from France.
Daguerre and Niépce’s son, Isidore received a lifetime pension in exchange for the daguerreotype process.
William Henry Fox Talbot
At the same time when Daguerre came up with his daguerreotype, the Englishman William Henry Fox Talbot was experimenting with what would eventually become his calotype method and patented in February 1841. Innovations of Talbot included the creation of a paper negative and new technology that involved the transformation of the negative to a positive image, allowing for more than one copy of the picture. Talbot’s negative-positive process formed the basis of almost all the photography.
Despite Talbot’s perfection, the daguerreotype was the method used widely for photography. And it took the world by storm. One of the main reasons for its popularity was its low cost.
So popular that around 1839 Paris newspapers were stating a new disease called Daguerreotypomania. Soon with major improvements, the daguerreotype studios were up all over Europe and the United States.
Success stories and the dark side of the Industrial Revolution Inventions
Can I make this statement; the Industrial Revolution was in favor of the rich. Well, I can so confidently say it and I have proof.
The proofs are the photographs captured by those valiant photographers who showed the dark side of the industrial revolution. The photographs showed the sabotage of those hapless workers, child labor, the dark side of capitalism, poor dwellers, and most importantly war reality.
Let’s also talk about the bright side; the photographs aided the industrialist in showing off their business, success and strength, advertisements, taking up public figure honor (Very common one wants to be famous). Briefly, overall industrial progress.
Not just favoring the industrialist, photographs transformed the way we see things. Photography was proved useful in many fields, such as medicine, sociology, ethnology, psychology, biology, and also in astronomy. Major government propaganda, social reforms, westernization, colonialism were also the effects of photography.
Photographers recorded the physical identifications of criminals and later used them to study criminal behaviors.
So, Criminology too. And all these major transformations happened during the industrial revolution.
Worth mentioning Photographs
- The Civil War in the United States (1861-1865) – Mathew Brady, an American photographer, sensed the importance of documenting the conflict at its onset. Brady organized a team of photographers to cover up various battlegrounds. The team includes Alexander Gardner and Timothy O’Sullivan, an Irish immigrant whose pictures of the battlefield were the most riveting and horrific of all war photographs.
- Lewis Hine, a New York school teacher showed the outcome of cruelty and detriment happened to the children in the name of child labor (after-effects of the civil war). The National Child Labor Committee conducted an exhibition to dramatize the plight of child labor. Hine outcast the photographs portraying child labor. With Hine’s photographs, not just the dangers of child labor but the danger faced by all the workers in the age was revealed.
- Jockey on a Galloping Horse (1877) – Eadweard Muybridge, an English-American photographer, first to create a motion picture, captured an image of a moving horse. This image concluded a long-awaited mystery whether all four legs are off the ground at once while horse riding (which is true).
- Street Life in London (1877) – John Thomson, went a step further and made candid photographs of the poor people in the streets of London and publishes in a series called Street Life in London.
- Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow (1878) – Thomas Annan, a Scottish photographer, made the first attempt to document urban poverty. Annan pictured the empty, unsanitary Glassgow in 1868, and these aid in the new development in the Glasgow slums. Later the pictures were published in Old closes and the streets of Glasgow.
- How the Other Half Lives (1890) – Jacob Riis, a Danish-born journalist in the United States was into his campaign to improve the lives of the poor in New York. He worked around taking pictures of poor dwellers and showed them at public lectures. Later published them in a book “How the Other Half Lives”. This helped to bring better living conditions for the slum dwellers.
Back to the point; Photography is the history.
Don’t you think photography changed history, not just world history but the individuals’ too? Photography also made its own history!
Hope you agree with my view now!
Photographs don’t just show still pictures, they tell you a story. It’s your memory at the instance you are sharing with your loved ones or to the world. Or your memory with a person you know (the dead could be remembered). Even a fleeting moment can last long.
Cherish your moment and snap it, make your own history!
Disclaimer: Not all that shown through the lens were true. Photographs claimed true were later proved to be biased.
Did You Know!
Kodak camera (1888) was the first ever small inexpensive camera available for literally everyone even the amateurs, was introduced by George Eastman. Eastman was the one who developed dry gelatin roll film, thus filming happened.
Guidelines: Once you had gone through “id”, start reading the above content and see how quickly you recall the information. Practice often and improve your memory!
|Leonardo da Vinci|
|camera for drawing images|
|View from the Window at Le Gras|
|silver iodide was much more sensitive to light|
|taking up public figure honor|
|physical identifications of criminals|