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The History and Impact of Photography

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Rachel Hullender

Kyle Hays


24 March 2016            

The History and Impact of Photography

           It's next to impossible to imagine a technology that impacted the twentieth century more than photography. The airplanes, nuclear power, automobiles were more prominent than photography, yet on a day-to-day term, photography was the most spread out. Photography is an art form that was developed in the 1830s but was publicly recognized a decade later. Before being considered an art form, photography fought a tough, controversial battle. The multiple applications it derived into and the diverse areas it's used, made it a skeptical medium of art (Sandweiss). Today, it is one of the greatest hobby, if not the greatest. Not every individual knows what a shutter speed or even camera obscurer is, nor have many heard of Annie Leibowitz or Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Photography has completely changed the opinions and many individuals' views on the world. It's not just a picture on a small piece of paper. Photographs are used to capture the beauty, document family milestones, stalk celebrities and reveal the ugliness of war (Walter). In comparison to the other media, photography is way ahead in the way that it has changed the world. The world no longer focuses on paintings and words, but on photographs. Also, it has changed how people perceive themselves. During the American Civil War, many people were shocked with the war photographs being published in the newspapers. War had been photographed for the first time, and these people were witnessing the reality of death for the first time. Before this, people had only heard of stories of heroes. However, these stories were not always accurate. On seeing the pictures, fields full of dead people, rivers full of blood and bruised soldiers running while carrying their guns, their thoughts of war totally varied. They had previously heard of death during war, but seeing it was entirely another matter (Locke). Due to the photographs, they began seeing war as a more serious death or life situation.

In the twenty-first century, where most photographs are digital, photography power lies in all the electronic devices with a lens and a photosensitive element. Photography came from the flourishing film industry from late nineteenth century to the twentieth. The thin plastic sheet coated with emulsion enjoyed it peak in the 1900s when it was indispensable for motion picture, photography and even in the medical world (Locke). Before the introduction of roll film by George Eastman, cameras were big and complicated and used silver-surfaced copper plates. As a result, they were complex, big, costly and only used by professional photographs. Eastman marketed the small, cheap and reliable Kodak camera with the film. Kodak camera was cheap, and consequently, ordinary people could afford the film rolls everywhere, and they could easily develop them at pocket-friendly prices. This was the beginning of amateur photographs (Walter).  More people owned cameras that resulted in people changing their point of view towards the world. The advertising industry increasingly employed photography during the period Kodak used pictorial advertisement to create a market for its papers, films, and cameras. Popular magazines before the television era as well as newspapers were carriers for most of these print advertising. The main reason for advertising was to create the desire that would attract new customers to the products that were available. Although painted illustrations and drawings were commonly used in advertisements during the early part of the twentieth century, photography gradually took over (Ming).

As advertising photographs presented desires for consumers to purchase products, editorial photography opened information treasure chest that could be presented to the public in visual, not just in the verbal sense to the mass audience, text without pictures is boring (Locke). Engravings and drawings had been used in magazines and newspapers for as long as it was tolerable with the available technology. However, with the expansion of technology, photographs soon became a staple for the dailies (Sandweiss). Development of scanned photos, wire photo, telephone wires, and telegraph sped the global distribution of news pictures.

The importance of photography is not only limited to the world of art but is used in multiple aspects in our world today. Most of the first photographers didn’t consider themselves artists, instead, they considered themselves engineers, scientists, botanists, chemists, astronomers and inventors (Locke). Photography has been known to capture the beauty, but it also documents major historical events. Photographs allow for us to enter an era we never experienced and saw what it felt like to be at that moment (Walter). In pseudo-sciences, photographs earned credibility as objective evidence as they could record events, people, and places, Photographers such as Edward Muybridge came up with photographs' portfolios that measured animal and human movement. His photographs recorded movement that gradually increased in stages that were too fast for the naked human eye to capture. His work accomplished the camera's promise to heighten, or even create new forms of photographs for scientific study (Sandweiss).

Photography isn't just about clicking moments and recording moments. It's a form of communication, a form of expression and a form of art and crafts. The photograph offers the observer with a glimpse of the world through the eye, and in numerous ways via the heart of the viewer. It's through the photograph that people can see situations, landscapes, people, perspectives, colors, angles, and shapes that they won't be able to witness on their own. The more the people look at the photographs, the more they perceive they are accustomed to ignoring. Photographs create the bridge between what people want to see and all that is there to see. It’s an eye-opening evolutionary process that brings light to the unseen (Walter).



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