William Henry Fox Talbot
(Top Image: “Full Moon Over the Sea“)
Though photography as an art medium continues to spark debate over whether it should be considered art at all, images captured by photographers have amazed, moved, angered, and inspired people since the camera’s invention.
As a mechanical device, a camera preserves visual memories. As an artistic medium, a camera does much more. Depending on the artist holding the device, a camera captures fleeting moments, constructed scenes, portraits of the famous and anonymous, minutia, and landscapes. Some photographs intend only to be aesthetically striking and visually pleasing. Some intend to shock the viewer and share a challenging perspective. At times, photographs communicate social commentary. Others manipulate images into an alternative vision. In 1839, Louis-Jacque-Mand Daguerre in France and William Henry Fox Talbot in England made announcements of inventions that paved the way for photography’s birth. Each had developed methods of reproducing still objects into permanent form through chemical processes. The daguerreotype used metal, and the photogenic drawings used paper. These processes spawned attempts to perfect and improve upon their work and led to others’ efforts at developing even better methods. Eventually, photographic film and hand-held cameras were invented and made available to the masses. Early photographs prominently featured portraits, landscapes, and architecture, in part due to the necessary stillness early photographic equipment required and in part as a reflection of the inclination for natural realism present at the time. The nascent technology recorded striking images of war, including the Civil War in the United States, captured by Mathew Brady. In 1880, the first images of motion were captured in California by Eadweard Muybridge, who amazed spectators with his photos of horses galloping. As technological advances enhanced the equipment and printing capabilities, photographers as artists emerged and niches developed. Some photographers focus on capturing very real elements, such as images of war, or exposing rarely seen scenes through photo-essays. Other photographers, such as Grace Weston, construct imaginative sets using props and photograph the resultant staged scene. Other photographers, such as Jerry Uelsmann, create photo montages, combining photographs into one work of art to display a vision of an imagined world created from the existing world.
- Violin d’Ingres by Man Ray, 1924
- Storm in Yosemite Valley by Ansel Adams, 1935
- The Beatles by Richard Avedon, 1967
- Saddle I by Helmut Newton, 1976
- Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange, 1936
- Andreas Gursky’s Rhein II sold for 2.7 million pounds in 2011, setting a record for the highest amount ever paid for a photograph at auction.
- The first image of a person was captured accidentally in 1838 by Louis Daguerre during a long exposure of Boulevard du Temple in Paris.
- The first color film by Kodak was invented by two classically-trained musicians in 1935.