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We Love Photography – You love Photography It's why we're here reading this blog. Right? But, what is the story behind that love affair?
Photography – The Early Years
The origin of photography is credited to Thomas Wedgwood who developed the first working camera and the creation of permanent images in 1790. The coining of the word, “Photography”, has been attributed to Sir John Herschel and dates back to 1839. Along the way various other inventors, such as Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, Louis Daguerre, and William Henry Fox Talbot contributed to the development of the photographic process. It was George Eastman, who in 1888, refined and automated the technology with the development of gel on paper, (film), that brought photography into the emerging modern world . At this point, photographic imaging no longer required a photographer to carry large quantities of heavy photographic plates and toxic chemicals. Then, in 1901, Eastman Kodak introduced the Kodak Brownie Camera and photography went mainstream.
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In the early years, the public's fascination with photography centered on news and travel. People wanted to see life outside of their small circle of influence. Toward the end of the 1950's and going into the 1960's photography gained popularity as a means of recording our own lives. This trend was popularized by photo-centric magazines, such as Life Magazine, Look Magazine, and National Geographic which specialized in slice-of-life photo essays. The gaining popularity of photography was also enhanced by dropping prices for both film, and cameras, as well as an increased ease of use.
Anyone remember the drive-thru Fotomat booths?
Today, a state-of-the-art camera, one that would have been unimaginable even just a few years ago, can be had for less than two hundred dollars (USD).
But, what we REALLY want to discuss is where our love for photography began and where your love affair with photography occurred.
Our love affair with photography began in 1974. It was our freshman year of high school. We took an elective class titled, Basic Photography. In our very first session, the teacher, a man by the name of Mr. Madsen, took the entire class outside to a courtyard filled with trees and grass. He announced that he was going to show us the importance of lighting by taking a portrait of a student, and then, we would process the Kodak Plus-X film together. He picked a student, a girl by the name of Joan, and told us he was going to take two ‘natural light' portraits of her. “Tomorrow,” he announced, we will process prints. And, you will learn what light means to a photograph.
Mr. Madsen shot an entire roll of film on Joan. For half of it, he placed her in the open midday sun. For the other half, he placed her in the shade of a tree.
We all trudged back inside and processed the film.
The next day Mr. Madsen, took us into the darkroom, and we printed each version of Joan's portraits. This is where the magical moment happened for us. Those images emerged from the chemistry, and we were awestruck by how darn good Joan looked in the picture under the tree; she looked better than in real life. We were also amazed at how bad she looked in the direct sunlight; it had emphasized every bad feature the poor girl had.
That moment started a love affair with photography that has lasted 39 years. And it's still going strong!
Here are a few of the reasons that we love photography so very much
Photography is a portable medium – It allows virtually anyone to express their creativity. This is especially true in today's digital environment, where the cost of entering and maintaining the hobby is within everyone's reach. As a child growing up, we were always creative. But we had difficulty finding a way to express it. We couldn't sing or play a musical instrument. And, don't even think about putting a pencil, or a paintbrush in our hands. We even tried pottery once; our creations were lopsided pieces that only a mother could love. But, photography was our medium, it was something we could do well, and we went after it with a vengeance. Within months, we had purchased a camera and darkroom equipment with our savings. We became Mr. Madsen's teaching assistant, and by the end of high school we were teaching his class for him. We will never forget the twisted look on his face, ( Mr. Madsen being a traditionalist, and not very experimental), when we showed him the portrait of our sister holding the magnifying glass.
But, he beamed with pride when that image won a local photo contest at the newspaper.
How does the love affair with photography serve us throughout our lives?
Photography allows us to record the memories of our children – And, we don't mean a snapshot at a birthday party. We mean images that we created, have personal investment in, and therefore they have special meaning. The photograph of Dustin, (the author's son) was taken on Easter morning in 1987. He was three years old. He sat by a window waiting for us to depart for church. He is now 29 years old. We have an emotional investment in this photograph. Without it, we wouldn't remember that day at all: his smile, his clothes, the room, the weather… This photograph has permanently embedded that moment into our life.
Photographs allows us to record places we've been – This is especially important when we travel to locations that we most likely will never return to. In 1995, we went to Amalfi, Italy. In our memory, it was one of the most magical places on earth. It seemed stuck in time. The people, the architecture, the landscape, and all the colors (of everything) were a photographer's dream. The photograph of the perfume shop serves as testament to ourselves that we once stood there and took it all in.
Photos allow us to share our intimate moments. Life skips past us in the blink of an eye: people come and go, we change jobs, locations, hobbies, lovers… Photographs allow us to return to a moment. The stimulus of physically viewing a scene buried in our past will cause even more memories to bubble to the surface. Those memories may be good, and make us smile, or, they may be bad and make us cry. But it's the emotion of feeling those memories, no matter what they are, that let's us know we're alive.
Photography can be a lifelong friend!
We would love to hear your stories. What event caused you to fall in love with photography? What is your favorite photographic moment. What does photography mean to you? Please, upload an image as well: something you're particularly proud of, or, one that stimulates a strong emotion from you.