History of Photography: Photography is History!

“History is for human self-knowledge … the only clue to what man can do is what man has done. The value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is.”
R. G. Collingwood

Let’s have a look into the history of photography and the impact that photographs have had on history itself…

To understand ourselves we have to be honest with each other and it’s hard to think of an art that’s more honest than photography. Composers order notes for musicians to manipulate and painters alter perspective in their work and in doing so the perspective of those who view it. Even the words we use to write our history can be easily used to say almost anything we like…

Perhaps photography is man's best friend when it comes to truly understanding ourselves...
Perhaps photography is man’s best friend when it comes to truly understanding ourselves…

It’s always amazed me how the most technologically advanced form of human expression is also the most obsessed with the natural depiction of the human condition. Where other arts offer abstract escape from reality, photography brings us back to earth, even if it is to a time on earth we left behind long ago.  Photography has been obsessed with clarity almost as much as other arts have been keen to escape it and it’s helped us see the magic in our day to day existence and how important it is to remember those moments clearly…

To celebrate the indelible mark that photography has printed on the face of our history let’s look back to where it all started…

Funny to see a camera advertised by a hand drawn picture...
Funny to see a camera advertised by a hand drawn picture…

When Kodak developed the world’s first easy to use camera – the n°1 box camera – in 1888; photography began to solve a problem that had obsessed people around the world since the beginning of time. How do we remember our past? How will we be remembered? and how do we express ourselves in the present.?

If we'd had camera's back then there'd have been no need for cave paintings...
If we’d had camera’s back then there’d have been no need for cave paintings…

For the first time ever people like you and me could put away the finger paints and record life’s special moments, as they actually happened, when they actually happened in a literal flash! With the click of a shutter; important times in our lives could now be kept and enjoyed in the future as many times as we liked. We could literally save our memories for later and enjoy the moment now. We had photographic evidence that something amazing happened, when it happened and that we were there! We could look back on our lives and truly appreciate them, allowing us to live fully in the moment and appreciate it as we grow old as if through the eyes of another…

Like Virginia Woolf said:

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Over the years photography gained importance well beyond the world of family photo albums. The examples of its application are endless! We have photography to thank for our knowledge of how weird the Victorians were…

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Or of how dangerous it would have been hang out around the Empire State building while it was being built….

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Or how dangerous it would have been to hang around New York in the past wherever you happened to be…

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The photo above was taken of famous daredevil’s The Jone’s Family atop the Times Square Hotel in 1925 and amazingly I don’t think anyone was hurt… By the way – Times Square’s namesake The New York Times was a pioneer in the soon to be everyday practice of newspaper photography and it’s archives remain one of the best stores of photographic history in the world. The New York Times recognized the potential of documentary photography to tell a story, to depict a moment in time that should be remembered forever…

The full history of photography would be impossible to condense into a single blog post. We will be updating regularly with new information and classic photographs that help us explore the soul of one if humanities greatest inventions.

Photography truly is the subject that celebrates itself!

 

 

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