Photography is the technique of recording, by chemical, mechanical or digital means, a permanent image on a layer of material sensitive to light exposure.
The word comes from the Greek words φως phos ("light"), and γραφις graphis ("stylus", "paintbrush") or γραφη graphê, together meaning "drawing with light" or "representation by means of lines", "drawing".
Image forming devices
Most commonly a camera or camera obscura is the image forming device and photographic film or a digital storage card is the recording medium, but other methods are available. For instance, the photocopy or xerography machine forms permanent images but uses the transfer of static electrical charges rather than photographic film, hence the term electrophotography. The rayographs published by Man Ray in 1922 are images produced by the shadows of objects cast on the photographic paper, without the use of a camera. And one can place objects directly on the glass of a scanner to produce pictures electronically.
Photographers control the camera to expose the light recording material (usually film) to light. After processing, this produces an image whose contents are acceptably sharp, bright and composed to achieve the objective of taking the photograph.
The controls include:
The controls are usually inter-related, for example brightness is aperture multiplied by shutter speed, and varying the focal length of the lens will allow greater control over the depth of field.
Uses of photography
Photography can be classified under imaging technology and has gained the interest of scientists and artists from its inception. Scientists have used its capacity to make accurate recordings, such as Eadweard Muybridge in his study of human and animal locomotion (1887). Artists have been equally interested by this aspect but have also tried to explore other avenues than the photo-mechanical representation of reality, such as the pictorialist movement. Military, police and security forces use photography for surveillance, recognition and data storage.
History of photography
The first photograph is considered to be an image produced in 1825 by Nicéphore Niepce on a polished pewter plate covered with a petroleum derivative called bitumen of Judea. It was produced with a camera, and required an eight hour exposure in bright sunshine. In 1839 Jacques Daguerre developed a process using silver on a copper plate called the Daguerreotype. Almost at the same time, William Fox Talbot developed a different process called the calotype, using paper sheets covered with silver chloride. This process is much closer to the photographic process in use nowadays, as it produces a negative image that can be reused to produce several positive prints. Hippolyte Bayard also developed a method of photography, but delayed announcing it and so was not recognized as its inventor.
Color photography was explored throughout the 1800s. Initial experiments in color could not fix the photograph and prevent the color from fading. The first permanent color photo was taken in 1861 by the physicist James Clerk Maxwell. The first color film, Autochrome, did not reach the market until 1907 and was based on dyed dots of potato starch. The first modern color film, Kodachrome, was introduced in 1935 based on three colored emulsions. Most modern color films, except Kodachrome, are based on technology developed for Agfacolor in 1936. Instant color film was introduced by Polaroid in 1963.
One of the early methods of taking color photos was to use three cameras. Each camera would have a color filter in front of the lens. This technique provides the photographer with the three basic channels required to recreate a color image in a darkroom or processing plant.
Color photography may form images as a positive transparency, intended for use in a slide projector or as color negatives, intended for use in creating positive color enlargements on specially coated paper. The latter is now the most common form of film (non-digital) color photograpy, owing to the introduction of automated photoprinting equipment.
Traditional photography was a considerable burden for photographers working at remote locations (such as press correspondents) without access to processing facilities. With increased competition from television, there was pressure to deliver their images to newspapers ever faster. Photo-journalists at remote locations would carry a miniature photo lab with them, and some means of transmitting their images down the telephone line. In 1990, Kodak unveiled the DCS 100, the first commercially available digital camera. Its cost precluded any use other than photojournalism and professional applications, but commercial digital photography was born.
In 10 years, digital cameras have become consumer products, and they are likely to gradually replace their traditional counterparts in most applications as the price of electronic components goes down and the image quality improves.
Kodak announced in January 2004 that it would no longer produce reloadable 35-millimeter cameras after the end of that year. However, "wet" photography will endure, as dedicated amateurs and skilled artists preserve the use of traditional materials and techniques.
The market for photographic services demonstrates the cliché "one picture is worth a thousand words," which has an interesting basis in the #History of photography. Magazines and newspapers, companies putting up Web sites, advertising agencies and other groups pay for photography.
Many people take photographs for self-fulfillment or for commercial purposes. Organizations with a budget and a need for photography have several options: they can assign a member of the organization, hire someone, or obtain rights to stock photographs.
Traditionally, the product of photography has been called a photograph. The term photo is a convenient abbreviation. Many people also call them pictures.
In digital photography, the term image has begun to replace photograph. This term is neither more nor less correct than photograph, either in film or digital photography. (The term image is traditional in geometric optics.)
Photography as an art form
The aesthetics of photography is a matter that continues to be discussed. Is photography an art - or is it just the mechanical reproduction of an image? If photography is authentically art, what makes a photograph beautiful? Is there a kinship between the beauty of an Atget and a Rembrandt?
The controversy began with the earliest images "written with light": Niépce (http://www.nicephore-niepce.com/pagus/pagus-bio.html), Daguerre (http://www.rleggat.com/photohistory/history/daguerr.htm), and others among the very earliest photographers were met with wonder, but some questioned if it was really art.
Clive Bell in his classic essay "Art" states that only one thing can distinguish art from what is not art: "significant form." Bell wrote: "There must be some one quality without which a work of art cannot exist; possessing which, in the least degree, no work is altogether worthless. What is this quality? What quality is shared by all objects that provoke our aesthetic emotions? What quality is common to Sta. Sophia and the windows at Chartres, Mexican sculpture, a Persian bowl, Chinese carpets, Giotto's frescoes at Padua, and the masterpieces of Poussin, Piero della Francesca, and Cezanne? Only one answer seems possible - significant form. In each, lines and colours combined in a particular way, certain forms and relations of forms, stir our aesthetic emotions." Text of Bell's essay (http://www.csulb.edu/~jvancamp/361r13.html).
Others have since examined if this criterion be applied to photography. This question has been dealt with by the Aesthetic Realism understanding of beauty. Some of the most important writing on this subject is to be found on the web sites of Len Bernstein, Louis Dienes (http://www.dienes-and-dienes.com/Atget.html), Amy Dienes (http://www.dienes-and-dienes.com/Cartier-Bresson.html), and David M. Bernstein (http://www.mindspring.com/~davidmbernstein/Dorothea_Lange.html): photographers and critics. Len Bernstein has described the Aesthetic Realism understanding of photography as an art form (http://www.lenbernstein.com/)in essays which have been publisheed for example in Apogee Photo Magazine (http://www.apogeephoto.com/apr2001/bernstein4_2001.shtml) and in Photographica World: The Journal of the Photographic Collectors Club of Great Britain (http://lenbernstein.com/Pages/RiisArticle.html).
On his web site he introduces the subject as follows: "When I began to photograph more than 25 years ago, I felt I found a way of expressing myself that met something so deep inside me that I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. Walking with my camera, the city streets seemed transformed - friendlier, more interesting - and I spent hours searching for dramatic situations, trying to capture the right moment. Looking through the viewfinder, what I saw had new value for me, boredom and loneliness seemed to vanish, and I wished I could feel that way all the time. And hoping to learn what made a photograph successful, I avidly studied the history and technique of photography.
"My hopes were met when I first heard this magnificent statement by Eli Siegel, the American critic and founder of the philosophy Aesthetic Realism: 'All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.' (http://www.terraingallery.org/IsBeauty.html) This is the criterion for beauty that centuries of artists, philosophers, people in all walks of life, have searched for; the explanation of what makes a photograph good and how our personal questions are the questions of art - dignified and cultural! I've had the thrill of testing it in thousands of instances, from the first known photograph taken by Nicéphore Niépce in 1826-27 to the most modern work of today." For an online exhibition of Bernstein's photographs click here. (http://lenbernstein.com/PagesLargeImages/peopleparkbench.html)
Likewise, important articles (referred to above) on photography as an art form, written from the Aesthetic Realism point of view, will be found on the David M. Bernstein web site "What Does a Person Deserve? The Answer Found in a Great Photograph" (http://www.mindspring.com/~davidmbernstein/Dorothea_Lange.html)and the "Dienes & Dienes" web site. See, for example Amy Dienes' "The Self Alone & The Self Going Out; or, Cartier-Bresson's Photo of a Leaping Man" (http://www.dienes-and-dienes.com/Cartier-Bresson.html); Louis Dienes' "On a Photograph by Eugene Atget" (http://www.dienes-and-dienes.com/Atget.html) and his illustrated poem "Black and White," originally composed for his own exhibition of photographs, which begins: "The day black and white got a break..." (http://www.dienes-and-dienes.com/Photographs-and-A-Poem-1st.html)
The question, Is photography an art form? gets us into deepest aesthetics and is a most important question.
An often neglected form of art in photography is that of portrait photography. A portrait is the basic rendering of someone’s likeness. A good portrait photographer, not only wants to capture the true likeness, but also the personality of the individual. The photographer needs to be proficient not only in the workings and setting of the camera, but also needs to understand form and lighting. Great lighting and positioning can make someone appear at their best form if used correctly. Lighting and camera placement can also aid in correcting defects such as shortening a nose, making someone appear slimmer, etc. In this form of art, portrait photography takes on many roles, and can help create various moods that the individual is seeking
Tom Ang, Dictionary of Photography and Digital Imaging, The Essential Reference for the Modern Photographer (Argentum 2001)
Basic topics in photography
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