Here’s Proof That Photography Has Changed The World

By Federico Alegria / November 1, 2016

Whatever you were thinking before, you could be wrong. Appreciating how photography changed the world and how we remember modern history is essential for society.

Photography is the ultimate tool for capturing our surroundings with a realistic approach. Due to the very nature of capturing evidence, it has impacted the way we remember things from our past.

From global-scale events to domestic and familiar occurrences, photography has shaped the way we remember things.

how photography changed the world

Image by Karen Warfel

1. Photography Changes History.

And It Alters our Perspective of the Past

The instant and immediate viewing of events is one of the most important things photography has given to humanity. Each day that passes, we get closer in terms of globalization.

Images reach a broader and wider audience each day, and history is reducing its gaps in terms of time intervals.

how photography changed the world

Image by Unsplash

Major events in our modern and contemporary times are widely known and remembered thanks to photography.

Photography has helped history to be reinforced with visual evidence that provides more objectivity than illustrations ever did and goes further yet from the oral tradition of previous historical times.

We can remember the past, not only because of our great and lucid memories, which I don't doubt some people have but because of photography.

We even experience feelings of nostalgia when we see images from previous times that can be completely unknown and almost foreign to us. It's bringing a tangible feeling (especially printed photographs) back from a picture in our mind.

2. Photography Changes Social Events And Family History

From weddings to funerals, photography has been present and shaped the way we do things.

Wedding photography is the ultimate form of social event photography, and the risk of failure has such dramatic consequences that the fear of failing at it is one of the main reasons why this photographic niche isn’t as highly saturated as one might think.

how photography changed the world

Image by Scott Webb

Domestic photography is a beautiful, intimate and genuine act of vernacular documentation. Almost all families treasure their photographs because they tell their story – it’s as simple as that.

Some photographers have taken this discipline into the artistic realm, like Sally Mann with intimate family photos, or Nicholas Nixon with his Brown Sisters series.

3. Photography Changes Privacy With Social Media

Social Media wouldn't be what it is today if not for photography. From tags to selfies, photography has helped people to transform their own privacy.

The whole notion of sharing has rocketed to new heights and almost defined a whole sub-genre in photography. The smartphone for one, has transformed what people photograph.

In one of my previous articles: why you should always carry a camera with you, it's become apparent over recent years, that actually, since we all have smartphones with (quite) excellent cameras these days, mobile photography is only gaining more momentum!

how photography changed the world

People Mother Family Father – Creativeix

Erik Kessels did something in 2011 called 24Hrs in Photos. The performance consisted of filling an Amsterdam gallery with pictures uploaded to Flickr in 24 hours. Then he completely drowned the place with the printed images.

This may be considered as a protest against the endless river of images uploaded to the internet, or a statement about how photography has evolved in terms of resources and availability.

Many of these images were considered as domestic and vernacular, both key elements of private imagery.

Summary

Each of these three points may seem simplistic in their nature, but in fact, they hold monumental significance about how society has evolved, cultures are changing and where the future of photography is taking us…

Every now and then it's good to pause, realize what's going on around us and consider taking a picture – whether it's with your smartphone or any camera you have on you.

No matter how “boring” the subject is, capturing a moment in history to one person may just be that indulgent moment of nostalgia for someone in years to come.

Remember to look back over your family photos and photos of your local area – it's a great way to appreciate what can happen over time as it flashes before our eyes. Take pictures, lots of pictures and remember them.


How Photography Changed The World – Top Takeaways

  • Remember that without photography, history would be just an intangible memory.
  • We can learn how photography changed the world simply by looking at some of favorite photographers and their works.
    Professionals evolve, just as we all do!

Further Resources

Further Learning

As we learned in point 2, wedding and social photography is a truly wonderful way to create memories for people and shape the way people remember their lives.
This course Secrets of Successful Event Photography will have you prepared with the skills and confidence you need to approach your first gig.


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About the author

Federico Alegria

Federico is a one of our staff writers and has 10 years of experience in making documentary photography, he is currently working in long-term photo essays and you can see more of his work here. He is also a professor at a design-focused University, and is currently pursuing his PhD (and of course, his thesis is around Photography). His work has been featured in museums, newspapers and magazines. He is currently based in El Salvador.

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