When Does It Stop Being a Photograph? Part 1.

Bloody Mama was originally recorded on 35mm color negative film.

Let’s start in a typical way of discussing photography.

The history of photography started long ago. The term “camera obscura” was first used around 1604 (Camera Obscura – Wikipedia, 8 April 2002). As a DYI project, you can make a pinhole camera yourself. Poke a tiny hole in a board or piece of aluminum foil perhaps, and it must be very tiny, like a straight pin.

What the tiny hole “sees”, when light passes through it, is then projected to a surface opposite to it; a wall, for example. For you to see the projected image you need bright sunlight shining on the object. You must be inside a darkened room into which the image is projected through the pinhole onto the wall opposite. Your eyes must grow accustomed to the dark in order to see the image. Once that occurs, you will notice the image on the wall is inverted and reversed in relation to the scene outside. It’s like you are looking at the backside of reality, and upside down.

These are the same concepts used with a pinhole camera, and there are many people who enjoy this special kind of photography. All of it follows the same laws of physics that control light, optics, electricity, and even old school chemistry used by all cameras including your smart phone’s.

Back up and fast forward again. You had photographic emulsions come along. Coat light sensitive goo onto something else that will hold onto it. Expose the same stuff to light reflected from an object. Then slosh it around in some chemicals. You may end up with what is called a negative. Shine a light through it onto paper which also holds the light sensitive goo. Slosh it around some more chemicals. Wash it off. Let it dry. Those are the essentials of the modern analog camera, film, and chemistry to create a photograph.

Nicephore Niepce is believed to be the first person to ever make what we would call a photograph, using the process I described. He called it a heliograph meaning “sun writing”.

We’re still on the same time machine here. Pulling the lever forward and back can make you dizzy. Fast forward and pass a bunch more history and technology. (This is a blog and not a history course.) Now we see cameras and film become less bulky, more convenient, much faster and lighter. Names like Leica, Nikon, and Canon, Kodak and Fuji enter the scene. As quality and convenience increase, big wooden box cameras move off the stage of popularity, but with many exceptions. Then we see it surpassed by something totally different from analog capture, goo smeared media, and smelly chemistry.

We arrive at the Digital Age. You hardly need a traditional camera. Your smart phone is remarkable and multi-functional. Image capture and the fidelity to Nature is beyond comparison to what has gone before. You most likely have in your pocket or purse, more photographic power that was ever dreamed possible only a few years ago.

Moore’s Law predicts that quality and realism will double about every 18 to 24 months. Take note of the the three lens smart phone cameras just released.

Photography is now so convenient and so popular, everyone takes pictures, snapshots, photographic images, captures, etc., even my four year old granddaughter. There are special contests for smart photo photographs, and you can become creative with a number of effects and filters that are free or only a couple bucks to download. Young people will photograph weddings with smart phones and disposable cameras, and never question whether they need a professional.

Simply by applying a couple apps, you have now become a professional photographer or an artist. Bang! Just like that.

And that is the question and problem I want to consider. I grew up in the old school. So these questions and concerns exist in my world. They are probably not questions at all for the youngsters today, except for something I think I discovered a few weeks ago.

A clue is in the image at the top, photograph or not.

Part 2 is coming.

~ by Bill on December 9, 2019.

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