Arguably one of my most favorite inventions of all time is photography, I have been fascinated with photographs since my parents gave me my first camera, a Kodak 210, at the age of 8. I suspect my later interest in history stems from my early fascination with photographs. And one of the things I am most grateful for today is the continuous innovation of photography, and the work of photographers in general.
The history of photography goes all the way back to the early 1800s, some 290 years ago, and involved a number of pioneer inventors. Beginning in 1834, William Henry Fox Talbot created the first negative, this was the foundation of the negative/positive light process inherent to the photography process. Talbot noticed latent images could me made to appear on “sensitized paper”.
It was Talbot that figured out the chemical process of treating this paper that led to capturing the latent images more permanently, thus beginning modern photography. For more on the history of photography, go here: Science & Media Museum: History of Photography in Pictures
So what makes photographs so fascinating? They are the closest thing we can get to time travel. They capture what our eyes perceive as moments in time. Originally, it took several minutes of exposure to capture a latent image, today it takes less than a second and no longer requires sensitized paper or chemicals. Paintings, drawings and sculpture dependent on an artist’s level of accuracy; photographic images mostly didn’t lie.
When they did, it took a certain level of skill to manipulate the image making such instances rare. Now, technology makes it extremely easy to fake a photograph or even video if one has the right software, but it can also require a certain amount of skill to get the manipulation of a high enough quality to fool a viewing audience, at least for now. Photograph medium is an area of near constant innovation and adaptation.
Soon we will need special software to determine authenticity of just about everything photographic that we view. I do not look forward to the darker uses of this photographic manipulation though I do look forward to seeing what photography artists come up with in the explorations of their own artistic styles. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy these captured moments in time; tiny windows into a not-so-distant, to distant past.