Genius of Photography Part 1

1. What is photography’s “true genius”? Photography’s 170 year history has consistently surprised us and intrigued us, leaving the viewer searching for an answer within the imagery that may not even exist. It has kept us obsessed with the human form and our surroundings. Ultimately, photography lies to us; it provides us with imagery that is true to the eye but illustrates emotion that is not, and that is photography’s true genius.

2. Name a proto-photographer. A proto-photographer that experimented with photographic processes was Henry Fox Talbot, born 11 February 1800, deceased 17 September 1877. He was responsible for the invention of the calotype process associated in the 19th century and made major contributions to photography as an artistic medium in its earliest years.

3. In the 19th century, which term was used to describe the Dageurreotype? Andre Disderi, a french photographer, was made famous by patenting a daguerreotypist technique in 1854 that produced a smaller photograph mounted onto stiff card, coining the term ‘carte de visite’. Louis Dodero was the actual inventor of the technique. Cartes de visite were made popular by soldiers in the American Civil War as it was an inexpensive technique that produced compact images, capable of being sent by mail to loved ones back home.

4. What is the vernacular? The vernacular derives from amateur photography, where the focus of each image is far looser, generally documenting people and objects of importance to the photographer. The vernacular could also be found in advertising, forensics, passport photo’s and postcards. The beauty of these image typically lies in their history, mystery and as an ode to the gift of the medium, not from the talent, skill or genius of the photographer itself.

5. How do you “Fix the Shadows”? In the very earliest stages of photography, fixing the shadows had high priority in maintaining the highest standard and greatest quality within the imagery of that time. In the 1830’s the chemicals used to develop photographs were light sensitive. In order to fix the chemicals you were required to stop carrying the exposure which proved difficult at that time. Louis Daguerre made early attempts at fixing the shadows in the early 1800’s, creating the deguerreotype to fix shadows using a mirrored metal plate. A successful technique used by Henry Fox Talbot was through the use of camera obscurer. A ‘mouse-trap’ camera would hold the negative in place with the photographic material behind it, an opaque block would slide in and out in order to allow light to filter through for exactly the amount of time the photographer required.

6. What is the “carte de visite”? The carte de visite was a type of small photograph patented in France by Andre Disderi. It was usually made of an albumen print, or albumen silver print, which bound together the photographic chemicals and the paper to form the positive image from a negative. Carte de visites measured 54mm x 89mm and mounted onto card measuring 64mm x 100mm. This was an inexpensive and compact way of developing photographs and was the dominant form of photographic positives all the way into the turn of the 21st century.

7. Who was Nadar and why was he so successful? Felix Nadar, born 1 April 1820 deceased 23 march 1910, was a French photographer and caricature born in Paris. Nadar, a pseudonym of Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, explored many routes within portraiture photography and even executed the first ever photo-interview with a famous French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul. He frequently photographed celebrities of that era but in a style that did not make them seem superior, instead the images were mere snapshots which created for a more authentic and realistic portrait. Nadar also dabbled in erotic photography.

8. What is pictorialism? Pictorialism is a particular style of photography that dominated the art form globally in the late 19th century and early 20th century, popular with such photographers as Heinrich Kuhn and Robert Demachy. Pictorialism shows evidence of the earliest form of manipulation within photography, creating an aesthetic that would not exist, instead being merely a recording or documentation. Techniques such as burning and dodging light within the developing process would be a main factor in creating such works. The style was popular up until World War II, where the more popular styles involved untouched images with sharper focus.

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