Origins of photography essay

The Boston partnership produced among the finest portrait daguerreotypes in America for leading political, intellectual, and artistic figures, from Daniel Webster No artist is more closely tied to the early years of American photographic practice than Mathew B. Brady ? A skilled daguerreotypist, he learned the technical aspects of the process from the American pioneers of the medium, Samuel Morse and John Draper. In the mids, however, Brady and other artists began using collodion-on-glass negatives, or wet plates, and soon the era of the daguerreotype was over.


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By the onset of the Civil War , the paper print had replaced the daguerreotype altogether as the means by which Brady and other artists distributed the faces and scenes of their time. Elite daguerreotype studios were outfitted with colorful velvet tapestry, frescoed ceilings , six-light chandeliers, and, of course, impressive daguerreotype portraits of kings and queens, politicians, and even Native American chiefs Seamstresses, carpenters, actors Early American Photography on Paper, s—s Although quite popular in Europe, photography with paper negatives as invented by the Englishman William Henry Fox Talbot in found little favor in America.

The daguerreotype process, employing a polished silver-plated sheet of copper, was the dominant form of photography for the first twenty years of picture making in the United States. A notable exception is the work of the little-known French-born artist Victor Prevost — By the late s, most American artists had switched from the daguerreotype process to large glass-plate negatives and albumen silver prints that combined the exquisite clarity of the daguerreotype and the endless reproducibility of paper-print photography.

The glass plates were also extremely light sensitive, making exposure times dramatically shorter. Photographers such as Mathew B. Brady, James Wallace Black — Holmes — After the shooting, the negative editors went through the hundreds of images the photographers came back with, to choose a first selection of about 40 images. After that, all the editors assigned to a story made a final selection of images. Together with the designers, these images had been laid out together with the text on the magazine's pages.

As much as the photographers were being presented as autonomous forces behind the magazine, their names were mainly being used as a brand, a guarantee for high quality photographic journalism by known authorities such as Margaret Bourke-White. Text and image use the same easy-going tone, a fresh and honest language.

History of Photography Essay

The title is laid out between image and text, functioning both as image caption and text title and thus offering a visual interface from photography to text. The layout becomes more open as the essay goes on: The last page's image is diagonally cropped — to the effect that the reader's vantage point is behind the bar counter, talking to the tired workers, looking at the hollow eyes of the children spending their evening in a smoky bar. Below, we see the sunken cheeks of a mother with her two sons at a laundry, the female family worker as a counterplay to the frivolous nighttime entertainment of their husbands.

Between the images, the text describes the hard days of these mothers between work, household chores and education of their kids. An effective mosaic of images, text and typography, to show the reader what it really means to build a dam: From the spectacular technology to the workers, their women, even their children.

What supposedly surprised the editors, and what they want the readers to grasp, is the fact that photography tells the story of real life behind numbers and politics of a billion-dollar project such as the Columbia Basin River Dam. Life, the magazine, obviously wants to let their readers to live through information — to experience it. This is probably why the magazine is being called LIFE instead of the original SCOPE: Disguised as pure visual journalism — with the emphasis on the photographers as authors, the anonymous editors carefully use texts and typography to manipulate the meaning of single images.

But already on the title page, the difference becomes clear: Whereas LIFE's first issue wants to fascinate with high-quality photography and focuses on political stories, LOOK wants to entertain — with picture stories. A very startling front page, even more so because Goering will not be mentioned again throughout the magazine. LOOK seems to focus on the single image and its potential. It is the belief of the editors of LOOK that the news today can best be told in well edited pictures — and not in long columns of type. LOOK will bring the current events [ O'Grady and their respective husbands and children to make the better informed on what's happening in the world.

We hardly learn any photographer's name, just as the writers and editors stay nameless. Where Life focuses on the tone it should be read in, the view-point it wants the reader to take, LOOK acts as a seemingly neutral information tool. In , Daniel D. It is a source and reference book for the general public and free-lance writers who want to learn the goals and methods of picture-magazine publishing; it is a practical textbook for teaching the techniques and procedures of picture-writing, the most radical and recent advance in modern journalism.

Writing with images, says Mich, is the most radical progress in modern journalism, and he assumes that the ones who are skilled at it will rule the world. Simple Chronology 2. Narrative Chronology 3. Repeated Identity 4.

Be it in light or shadow: Photography and the Essay | The Photographers' Gallery

How To 5. Parallel or contrast 6. Layout 7. Development of a theme [ Continuity comes not from within the images but from the reader's knowledge, and thus is it not a real visual strategy. Repeated identity means to repeat one element throughout the whole image series — a person, a thing or even an atmosphere.

The How To is the explanation of a process: For example a photographic manual, a step-by-step instruction — a simple chronology, aiming at showing cause and effect.

History of Photography.

Parallel or Contrast are strategies to ensure continuity through comparison of two images, either contrasting them or finding analogies. The sixth strategy for Mich is the layout: Different forms of arranging images with texts, to either show contrast or similarities, to steer the readers gaze away from one detail to another one.

The Donald Duck cartoon develops the theme of serious economics and politics as well as criticizing it by making fun of it. But Mich seems clueless as how to achieve this with photography. It seems that Mich's Das Kapital of visual journalism failed. He is not able to find the words for the strongest force behind visual journalism: The development of a theme with photography, or in other words: The photo essay — a way of informing from a personal vantage point, to make the readers believe to experience rather than being informed.

Instead, he tries to write a kind of a cook-book for visual storytellers, identifying all the ingredients needed to create a fine photo story. Maybe he tried to discern himself from the ruler of the publishing world, TIME Inc, or he just did now know about it yet in In any case, despite it's obvious fault of being drawn and not photographed, Mich's example of the Donald Duck Cartoon shows what the photo essay is all about: Disguised as nice and easy entertaining, he informs the reader that there is an economic crisis, and what he can do about it — and that he should not panic but take it lightly.

Just like photo essays such as Margaret Bourke- Whites River Dam project have their hidden - and very persuasive - political bias: That the workers are heroes, giving their lives and their families for the American Dream to come true.


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  • In doing this, Life helps great masses of people come to grips with the world as it really is — helps them make more intelligent decisions. Whereas LOOK's democratic goal was to maximize information with simpler photo stories, LIFE wants to persuade — with the more complex and very persuasive photo essay. The photo essay as well as the photo story is the ideal vehicle for making information available to a great mass of people. The term photo essay implies a vantage point: It does not show facts, but how these facts are to be seen.

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    Kodak and the Rise of Amateur Photography

    By openly taking a point of view, the photo essay of LIFE turns objective information into emotional experience — und as such, paradoxically, a more persuasive and seemingly honest tool for information. A very powerful tool to show the world how it really is — or rather: to make readers believe that they see how the world really is, by turning facts into experience. An experience controlled by editors, conjured out of fragmentary images in combination with well composed texts as well as typography and layout.

    Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung. Berlin: Ullstein, Ferber, Christian. Looking at Life Magazine. Chicago: Smithsonian Institution Press, , S. Henry R. Luce and the Rise of the American News Media. In: Life 1.

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