Thursday, November 3, 2011

three cheers for messrs daguerre and talbot!

Moving water

Photography, as everyone knows, is all about light and the early history of photography is all about the various methods used to try and fix the light to make a permanent recording of a passing moment. The camera obscura – which works like a pinhole camera and could project a live image onto a surface – had been around for a very long time (it was known in ancient China).  So it's hard to believe that it's only 180 years ago that Daguerre and Talbot, working in different countries, finally figured out how to ‘freeze’ and preserve the projected image. It’s difficult for us to imagine how exciting it must have been in those days to see a scene permanently recorded just by the action of light on chemicals. We’ve become so used to the idea now that we completely take it for granted.

But imagine if you’d never seen a photograph before, if all that you knew was the long, slow process of drawing and painting. Imagine that your knowledge of how things looked in the world had depended totally on these up till now. Wouldn’t it seem like an absolute miracle that within a few minutes you could have a picture in your hands that recorded every detail of the scene in front of you with total accuracy?  And, in the 1950s, when Kodak automated the process and made cameras cheap enough for everyone to afford, anyone could do it.

Things have moved on since then, and we're no longer obsessed with making everything in a photo look sharply detailed just because we can.  Other things have become more important to us, and the quality of the light is one of these. Some kinds of light truly are fantastic and give our photos real impact, and the right light can make a very ordinary subject look extraordinarily dramatic. Both these images have a strong sense of movement, but what really makes them work is the light. The play of light on autumn leaves in a stream becomes a colourful abstract and in Mary "Manya"'s photo it turns a swimmer into a blaze of glory.

by gilly of the camera points both ways

I tried to capture a mermaid...
I tried to capture a mermaid by mary "manya"


Ashley Sisk said...

What an interesting post - so much to learn Gilly. Love your pairing.

Bo Mackison said...

Lovely writing, lovely photos. Light makes the photograph. So true.

Anna said...

Gilly, I have been reading about the history of photography, also. I agree it must have seemed quite the miracle at the time. Contemporary photographers often take for granted the ease at which we click away and get wonderful captures. This point was especially brought home to me while reading about the life and work of the Victorian era photographer, Julia Cameron. Truly gorgeous images you have presented for us today!!!

Oliag said...

Ethereal light in both of these photos! Other-worldly!

Christina said...

gilly, what an amazing post. there is magic in both of these photos.

Kirstin said...

This is an amazing post, Gilly. The pictures are as captivating as your words.

Kat Sloma said...

Love the history you've pulled into this post Gilly! The images are perfect.

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