Dedicating a lecture or lectures to the history of photography presents students with the opportunity to consider the aesthetic, cultural, and social dimensions of art through a medium they have engaged with throughout their lives. The photography lecture is, therefore, a good place to discuss larger themes such as the relationship of an original to a copy, an image to its material support, and representation to reality.
Scope: Since the mid-nineteenth century, photography was considered an objective representation of reality, despite its limitations with regard to capturing color or movement and its capacity for manipulation. This lesson challenges students to reflect on those contradictory but inseparable aspects of photography to consider photography’s role in science and art of the nineteenth century. This lesson focuses on how photographers explored the possibilities of the new medium in a variety of genres including portraiture, scientific documentation, and travel photography, and ultimately as a mass medium and tool of persuasion.
In an hour and fifteen minutes, these themes can be explored through many photographs, including:
- Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, View from the Window at Le Gras, 1826
- Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, Boulevard du Temple, c. 1839
- (Attr.) William Henry Fox Talbot, The Reading Establishment, 1846
- Southworth and Hawes, Rufus Choate, 1850
- Julia Margaret Cameron, Sir John Herschel, 1867
- Oscar Rejlander, Two Ways of Life, 1857
- Alexander Gardner, Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, 1863
- Maxime Du Camp, Statue of Ramses the Great at Abu Simbel, 1850
- Timothy O’Sullivan, Ancient Ruins in the Canyon de Chelly, New Mexico, in a Niche 50 Feet, 1873
- (Attr.) John Gulick, Two Sworded Officer, Japan, c. 1870
- Eadweard Muybridge, Horse Galloping, 1878
- Frederick Stuart Church, George Eastman on Board Ship, 1890
- Unknown photographer, Swimming Party, c. 1890
The discovery of photography was announced publicly in January 1839 at the Academy of Sciences in Paris. The artist and inventor of the diorama Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre was credited with the invention of what became known as the daguerreotype (a unique photographic image captured on a highly-polished surface of a copper plate.) Canonical surveys of photography often celebrate Daguerre as the inventor of photography, even though there had been numerous earlier experiments to fix the image of the camera obscura (latin for “dark room,” an optical device in the form of a room or box through which an image of nature is projected onto a screen by means of light passing through a pinhole.).
For example, Daguerre had partnered with Nicéphore Niépce, who had experimented with photography since the 1820s. Niépce’s 1822 photograph depicting the view from his window was created by means of an eight-hour exposure. By the time Daguerre produced his view of a Parisian boulevard in 1839, the exposure time had been reduced enough to capture one figure who had stopped to have his shoe shined. Why was the view from a window such a popular subject of early photographs?It satisfied the practical need for sunlight combined with the traditions of landscape painting to fix otherwise transitory moments in images like Daguerre’s.
In Great Britain, the aristocrat and polymath William Henry Fox Talbot also experimented with photography, producing photograms of botanical specimens on chemically treated paper in the 1830s. Talbot believed photography could provide a valuable aid to scientists, recording data visually for interpretation and experimentation. Hearing that Daguerre’s process had been made public in January of 1839, Talbot rushed to announce the details of his own method. Although the daguerreotype was immediately seized upon for the sharpness of its detail (it is actually clearer under a microscope than viewed with the naked eye)and due to the French government’s publicity of the process, it was Talbot’s negative-positive paper process (the calotype) that formed the basis of all subsequent photography until the digital age. Students might be asked, why do you think the negative-positive process became so important?
Photography’s development into a mass medium and potent form of visual communication is presaged in a photograph of the Reading Establishment, a photographic publishing firm established by Talbot. We see a number of the potential uses of photography on display: portraiture, reproduction of art works, and illustrations for books.Why does Talbot include these activities? How does this photograph promote Talbot’s calotype? Assistants demonstrate making a photograph, as well as the process of printing by sunlight.
The firm’s initial project was Talbot’s Pencil of Nature, the first commercially published book illustrated with photographs—a milestone in the art of the book. The book’s title indicates that photographs are pictures “drawn” by nature itself, without an artist’s intervention. Yet, The Open Door, which is the sixth plate in the book, places photography within the tradition of Dutch genre painting. What do you see in this photograph that reminds you of Dutch paintings we discussed in class? Talbot emphasizes detail, light and dark contrast, the use of the camera obscura, the relationship between interior and exterior, as well as symbolism of everyday objects. Here, the lamp symbolizes the camera obscura and the broom represents enlightenment. This photograph is about the artistic tradition of realism: everyday life and what the eye sees. Although photography became an important tool for artists, it was not initially considered an art form. The painting movement of Realism emerged around the same time as photography. What do the two modes have in common? How do they differ?
The realism of photography was used foremost to capture likenesses in the form of portraits of loved ones and noteworthy figures. Commercial daguerreotype studios proliferated in cities all over Europe, the United States, and eventually across the world. By 1841, exposure times were around 30 seconds to a minute depending on the light, making it much easier to produce images on a commercial scale—though portrait studios still used devices to hold sitters heads still. Daguerreotype portraits were mass produced and were therefore affordable for any middle class person. Why do you think portrait photographs were so popular?
Portrait studios, such as the studio operated by Southworth and Hawes, also made photographs of celebrities and politicians, and staged these images to look like paintings. Why? What do you think the attributes of this portrait of Rufus Choate suggest? How is it similar or different to other portraits that you have seen in class?Students might be asked to consider how the viewer’s experience changed as portraits shifted in format from luxury oil paintings on a wall to small hand-held and mass-produced daguerreotypes.
Julia Margaret Cameron also applied aesthetic principles of painting to portrait photographs. Taking up photography at the age of 49 after receiving a camera from her children, she used wet collodion on glass negatives and albumen prints to capture the intellectual elite from her upper class social circle. Cameron’s choice of subjects among Britain’s luminaries was both convenient (she lived next to Alfred Lord Tennyson) and strategic: portraits of celebrities were a commercial boon for photographers. Cameron’s portraits, including the celebrated scientist and early photographer John Herschel, defied conventions by using dramatic lighting and forgoing sharp focus in favor of conscientiously artistic effects that appealed to viewers familiar with Rembrandt’s chiaroscuro and the traditions of Romanticism. The photographic press criticized Cameron’s disregard for the “rules” of photography, which meant a strict adherence to sharpness of detail and seamless printing. How does a portrait like Cameron’s differ from the anonymous woman holding a daguerreotype or even that of Rufus Choate?
The painter Oscar Rejlander, with whom Cameron had briefly studied, also created photographs with artistic ambitions. His Two Ways of Life drew upon the composition of Raphael’s School of Athens and was composed of 30 separate negatives in a combination print. It depicts two young men choosing between virtue or vice. Rejlander’s photograph demonstrates that although photography was seen as a truthful medium, it could also be manipulated. Two Ways of Life is an allegorical representation of Victorian morals, and was purchased by Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert, an early example of official government support for photography as an art form.
Rejlander and Cameron challenged photography’s status as a faithful copy of reality in pursuit of art. During the American Civil War, long exposure times did not allow for battles to be captured. Photographs nonetheless brought home the graphic reality of war in a way painting could not, because viewers understood that what they saw in the photograph once existed in front of the camera. Alexander Gardner’s publication Photographic Sketchbook of the War combines photographs with war stories. He printed negatives from a variety of photographers, including himself. In Home of the Rebel Sharpshooter from July 6, 1863, Gardner dragged a soldier’s corpse and set it up with a gun that was not a sharpshooter’s in order to create a narrative. How does this photograph differ from other depictions of battle that we have viewed in class? Although composed, this photograph depicted the brutality of war in an un-Romantic way. For example, students might compare this photograph to Benjamin West’s The Death of General Wolfe (1770).
Photography’s documentary capabilities made it a powerful tool of public persuasion. Seeing this potential, governments commissioned photographers to record political events, cultural patrimony, and other state activities.
For example, photography was used in an official capacity to document far-flung places and important monuments, making them more accessible to a wider audience and preserving the past for posterity. Maxime Du Camp used the calotype to document Egypt’s monumental ruins and hieroglyphics for the French government in 1850. He created around two hundred paper negatives, and issued prints in albums of 25 each in 1851. Du Camp traveled with the writer Gustave Flaubert; the two sought picturesque scenes, bringing with them established aesthetic conventions.The European view of Egypt and the East was that it was exotic and uncivilized. To Europeans, the Egyptians could not manage their own cultural patrimony, and Du Camp’s project was therefore seen as preserving the ancient monuments against their loss to time. How can we see this sense of time passing recorded in Du Camp’s photograph?
In the United States, photographers like Timothy O’Sullivan traveled on western expeditions surveying America’s landscape and natural resources for future settlement and economic exploitation, fulfilling the mission of manifest destiny. O’Sullivan had gotten his start photographing the Civil War. His photographs of the West, like Du Camp’s, carry with them predominant cultural values. The landscape was thus inscribed with current ideas about progress—the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869—and predestined for development and prosperity. O’Sullivan’s photographs circulated in presentation albums amongst government officials, but to the general public primarily as prints and stereographs.
Comparing two documentary photographs by Du Camp and O’Sullivan, what kind of information do they convey? How are they alike/ different visually? How might they have been useful documents?
Armchair travelers in Europe and the United States were eager for photographs depicting what they perceived as exotic places and people. The stereograph, which capitalizes on binocular vision to create a seemingly 3-D image when viewed through a stereoscope, thrilled viewers by making these figures or landscapes appear even more realistic. Cheap and collectible stereocards became a drawing room entertainment among the middle class. The stereoscope is a prime example of how photography collapses time and distance, making the world apprehensible merely through the act of looking.
Eadweard Muybridge contributed to the technological advances of photography while exploring its use as a tool in scientific experimentation. He documented a horse’s gait when at a full gallop. Setting up a series of stereoscopic cameras with shutters activated by trip wires, Muybridge was able to capture the gallop in stop motion, proving that all of the horse’s legs leave the ground at the same time. This had implications for artists, who had used the “rocking horse” position to depict galloping horses since prehistoric times. Muybridge traveled around the U. S. and Great Britain giving magic lantern slide shows of his photographs from his Animal Locomotionseries, for which he produced series of stop action photographs of animals and humans engaged in various movements. He also experimented with early means of producing moving pictures, helping to pave the way for cinema.
By the end of the nineteenth century, photography became even more accessible to the average person. George Eastman founded the Kodak company, which sold mass-produced cameras that came pre-loaded with a strip of film capable of 100 exposures. For a fee, the whole camera would be sent to Kodak to be developed, and the prints would be returned, along with the reloaded camera. Putting the camera into the hands of mothers, children, and friends meant that details of everyday life could be recorded spontaneously anywhere. How can we see the effects of Eastman’s innovation today?
The Bigger Picture: From cheaply manufactured daguerreotype portraits to photographic publications and Kodak cameras, nineteenth-century photography truly became a mass medium. Photography also had a significant impact on art, since in it was understood to be the gold standard of optical realism. Classes on Realism and Impressionism will address how painters began to react to and use photography in their work, and in a future session on photography, we will discuss how a group of photographers known as Pictorialists embraced photography as an artistic medium in its own right.
Mark Henley exhibiting at the International film festival and forum on human rights in Geneva
Mark Henley will be exhibiting his award-winning and inquisitive work on prejudice against immigration at this year’s International film festival and forum on human rights in Geneva, Switzerland.
The set of portraits of asylum seekers which were pasted onto a public pavement by the refugees themselves and later defaced bear witness to underlying prejudice against immigrants across Europe.
The work will be shown at:
Espace Pitoëff – Café Babel
Maison Communale de Plainpalais
Rue de Carouge 52
from 9 to 18 March 2018.
**Deadline extended** Panos Pictures is looking for an Assignments / Social Media editor
Panos Pictures is looking for an assignments editor to oversee all commissions and assignments. He/she will be responsible for the day to day selection of photographers for assignments through to the final delivery of photography to the client. The assignments editor must develop and sustain relationships with Panos photographers, clients and organisations while seeking to expand our client base in the UK and overseas.
He/she will also oversee the Social Media output of the agency (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) and have a clear sense of the impact of the medium tied to the aims and objectives of the agency.
The assignments editor is a key member of the team, working closely alongside the Editor and Video Producer and reporting directly to the Director.
Role & responsibilities
* Liaise between clients and photographers
* Logistical organisation and support for photographers
* Negotiate contracts and fees
* Brief photographers for assignments
* Ensure correct and prompt delivery of photography
* Collect receipts and process expenses on behalf of the photographer and agency
* Help photographers develop and write project proposals
* Invoice for assignments
* Meet with clients
* Inform clients of photographers’ plans and whereabouts
* Keep abreast of new and emerging talent
* Oversee social media output – regular updates on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
Skills and experience
* Bachelors degree in a relevant subject
* Organisational, communication and negotiation skills
* Ability to work under pressure and to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances
* Good working knowledge of photoshop and other imaging software
* Photo editing skills
* Awareness of developments in contemporary documentary photography
* Good knowledge of global current affairs
* Understanding of the sensitivities of photographing in the developing world and of working with marginalised and vulnerable communities
* Day to day running of social media accounts
* European language other than English, preferably French, German, Italian or Spanish
* Previous experience of organising and overseeing assignments
Salary based on experience.
Interested applicants should please send a covering letter and CV to Adrian Evans ( [email protected] )
Deadline for applications has been extended to Tuesday, 6 March 2018 at midnight GMT.
Adam Dean recognised in the World Press Photo Immersive Storytelling Award
Adam Dean’s images, along with those of Tomás Munita, are part of the winning submission for this year’s Immersive Storytelling Award given by the World Press Photo Foundation.
Three Panos photographers win Photographer of the Year awards at the Pictures of the Year international
Three Panos photographers have been recognised in the Photographer of the Year category at this year’s Pictures of the Year international (POYi).
In second place, Ivor Prickett‘s work on the Battle for Mosul in Iraq, commissioned by the New York Times.
In third place, Adam Dean‘s work on the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh.
and an Award of Excellence for Mads Nissen for his work on the Peace Process in Colombia.
To view more winners’ galleries, please click here.
Jan Banning retrospective at the Fotomuseum Den Haag in the Netherlands
A retrospective of Jan Banning‘s will be showing at:
Fotomuseum Den Haag
2517 HV Den Haag
from 5 May until 2 September 2018.
For more information on the exhibition, please click here.
Panos photographers nominated for World Press Photo Awards
Three Panos photographers have been nominated for various World Press Photo prizes, including three nominations for the prestigious Photo of the Year.
Ivor Prickett, who covered the Battle for Mosul in northern Iraq extensively for the New York Times, has had two images nominated for the Photo of the Year, to be announced at the Award Days in Amsterdam on 12 April 2018.
A set of images from Ivor’s work on Mosul has also been nominated for the General News – Stories section of the awards.
Patrick Brown, who worked on the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh for UNICEF, has also been nominated with one of his images of drowned refugees near Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.
This image has also been nominated for the General News – Singles category.
Espen Rasmussen‘s ongoing project on the rise of right wing extremist groups in Europe and North America has been nominated for a place in the Contemporary Issues – Stories category.
We congratulate all our photographers who have once again been recognised for the outstanding work at the World Press Photo Awards.
Andrew McConnell and Mads Nissen win Pictures of the Year international prizes
Panos photographers Andrew McConnell and Mads Nissen have won prizes at this year’s Pictures of the Year international (POYi), which is releasing winners’ names over the coming weeks.
Andrew McConnell won a first prize in the portraits series section with his ghostly images of refugees and migrants rescued off their sinking boats in the Mediterranean.
Mads Nissen won a second prize in the portrait singles category for his image of an Afghan refugee in the snow in a makeshift refugee shelter in Belgrade, Serbia.
Petrut Calinescu wins first prize for Living on the Edge at the Balkan Photo Fest in Bosnia
Petrut Calinescu‘s long-term photo project looking at the haphazard construction boom on the outskirts of Bucharest – Living on the Edge – has won the first prize in the stories category at the Balkan Photo Fest in Bosnia.
Iva Zimova interviewed in Fotovideo
Panos photographer Iva Zimova has been interviewed by Czech photography magazine Fotovideo about her work over the past decades. Click here to read the whole interview.
Markel Redondo wins DJI Drone Photography Award
Markel Redondo is one of two winners of the DJI Drone Photography Award along with Tom Hegen. The award is sponsored by DJI and supported by the British Journal of Photography. The winners will be provided with a DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone with which they’ll be able to complete their proposed projects that will be exhibited in London in March 2018.
Markel’s submission to the contest was his long-term project Sand Castles which looks at the vast swathes of Spain that have been covered with speculative residential properties and infrastructure projects that were never sold or ran out of money.
Panos Pictures collaborates with Climate Visuals
We are excited to announce that a body of 99 images specifically relating to climate change is now being featured on the website of Climate Visuals, an evidence-based resource for visual climate change communication based on social research with thousands of people in three countries.
Climate Visuals aims to “provide inspiration and guidance for campaigners, picture editors and communications practitioners” through, amongst others, the carefully selected images images from Panos photographers.
Click here or on the image below to browse through the Climate Visuals selection.
Aubrey Wade’s Great British Welcome exhibition for UNHCR featured in the BJP
Aubrey Wade‘s recent long-term project – No Stranger Place – which looks at families across a number of European countries who have invited refugees into their homes, is being exhibited at St Martin-in-the-Fields at London’s Trafalgar Square.
The work has been featured in latest issue of the British Journal of Photography.