• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • You already know Dokkio is an AI-powered assistant to organize & manage your digital files & messages. Very soon, Dokkio will support Outlook as well as One Drive. Check it out today!



Page history last edited by tiffany sammons 11 years ago



"In America, the photographer is not simply the person who records the past, but the one who invents it."
--- Susan Sontag 




     While photography has been around for almost two-hundred years now, it has only been an issue for media ecologists for the last century. Photography is in the eye of the (camera) holder. From new parents to photojournalists to fashion photographers, photography is used in different ways and for different reasons. It is left up to the viewer to determine the ultimate result of their "photographic" actions.

    This page is going to be about photography and its history, theory, negatives, postives, the different types of cameras and photographs, and the connection to media ecology. Pictures, quotes, clips, and references will be shown as you read. I have put a lot of information in the history section because history is important. Without history, where would we be today? Feel free to make any comments, questions, and/or suggestions in the comment box below. 



     Photography began in the mid-1800s. At the beginning of the 19th century, Thomas Wedgewood was one of the many people who tried to create images with the use of silver salts. He could create an image with the use of light, but could not stop the image from completely darkening. Around 1816, two men, Joseph Nicephore Niepce and William Henry Fox Talbot, from different parts of the world were independantly trying "to solve the problem that" Wedgewood had ended his work on. Each person tried different subjects and ways, but got as far as Wedgewood had. All of their work would have been ignored "had it not been for Sir John Hershel. Hershel was a chemist and an astronomer. He discovered in 1819 that by bathing the images, after the use of the silver salts, into a thiosulfate solution, it would stop the image from darkening. By the 1820's, Niepce was able to fix his images abd create new ones with Herschel's technique. Talbot was able to do the same thing with his images by 1835. [6]

     Niepce and a man named Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre created a contract with each other that stated they will "share their attempts in making a practical, usable, permanent image" in 1829. Unfortunately, Niepce died in 1833 before either of them could create such a thing. Niepce's son Isidore takes over his position, but it was mainly Daguerre who finally created a permanent image in 1837 with the process called the Daguerreotype process. His process didn't get noticed untill two years later on August 19, 1839 when he offered it to the French Academy of Sciences. After hearing about the Dagerreotype process in 1839, Talbot created his own system and named it the Calotype process in the 1830's. His work did not get patented untill 1841. [6] 

     Samual F. B. Morse (inventor of the morse code) met with Daguerre in 1839 to find out how his processed worked. Daguerre took Morse's picture and showed him the steps. Right after that, Morse wrote to his "colleges in the States explaining the Daguerreotype system." While Morse was heading home, he decide to open up the first photography school in 1839. [6]

     In 1851, Frederick Scott Archer created the Collodion system that was better that the Daguerreotype because it "eliminated two drawbacks of the daguerreotype: the tedious preparation, and the health hazards of lethal chlorine and mercury vapors." In 1854, James Ambrose Cutting created the Ambrose type which consisted of taking images created using the Collodion system and adding velvet or paint onto the backs of them. [6]

     In 1856, Hamilton Smith created a Tintype (also called a melainotype or a ferrotype) by using "the Ambrotype wet-plate collodion coating," but used "a sheet of black lacquered iron" instead of the glass base. There is no tin in the tintype, it is just the name they created for it. [6]

     In the early 1850's, Contract paper prints were created using the Ambrotype, but instead of painting the back of the image, the image could be contact-printed on to paper. These paper prints could allow for images to be printed multiple times instead of just once. [6]        

     Moving ahead to the turn of the century, photography made the leap to photojournalism. With the advent of more modern cameras, photographers have been able to take live action shots as things were happening. The world could see things that were happening all over the world. This lead to public awareness of topics they had no access to previously. Since the beginning of photography, the medium has been a part of the commodity culture where they were being purchased as memories and sold as advertisements. Newspapers had already been introduced before the photograph appeared. Once the technology was there, photojournalism immediately took off in the world. The photojournalist were and still is more interested in selling the photos than reporting the actual 'news' behind the scene. As SusanSontag often noted in her work, news photos have been concerned with the production of 'spectacle'. [1] (pg. 154) Below is a timeline of the top ten milestones of Photography starting all the way back 1,000 years ago. This timeline gives a brief historical guide for photography.


Top Ten Milestones in Photography [4] 

  1. 1,000 years ago – Invention of the camera by Abu Ali al-Hasan (An Iraqi scientist). He named it “the camera obscura”. It captured an image from the outside, flipped it around, and displayed it inside a darkened room.
  2. 1814 – Joseph Nicephore Niepce made the first photo using “light-sensitive material that could record images from a camera.”
  3. 1900 – The first time families were about to take their own pictures because of the invention of flexible film by Kodak.
  4. 1902 – “Author Korn invented the electronic transfer of photographic images” called wire photos. The newspapers were the main ones to use this invention.
  5. 1925 – Invention of the 35mm camera by Leica. They were a small camera and worked well for professional journalists.
  6. 1949 – “The first commercially produced” SLF camera by Contax.
  7. 1985 – Autofocus was added to the SLF camera by Minolta.
  8. 1995 – Digital photography became popular with the uses of “cameras made by Apple, Casio, Kodak, and Sony.”
  9. 2008 – “30 million digital cameras are sold” every year in the U.S.
  10. Future (About 10 years from 2008) – It is estimated that over one billion people will have at least one camera and cell phone cameras that have the ability to post pictures on the internet. (This has already been accomplished within the five years this book has been published.)


 Link to history of photography in the United States



“Ten Pillars of Photography” [5]

  1.  Write with light: Photographers past and present work close with light. 
  2.  Capture sets the standard: “The fate of an image is set and sealed the moment you capture it.” 
  3.  Maintaining the rhythm: Sometimes the photographer may miss a shot when checking to see how the previous picture may have turned out. 
  4.  Once deleted, always gone: Once the photo(s) are deleted, you won’t be able to get them back no matter what. 
  5.  The weakest link: The weakest link is the photographer since it is them who controls what functions to use and what pictures to take. 
  6.  Monitor your colors: “The computer’s monitor is the center of the digital photography universe.” In order to be able to see your photos at their best is to have a monitor with the best quality. 
  7.  Photography for life: Photography is one of those things that “can be undertaken anywhere, at any time, by anyone of any age.” 
  8.  Respect your subjects: Depending on your subject, keep in mind to shoe what you love about it and do your best to show it at its greatest. 
  9.  Fragile: Handle with care: The time when the image is as it best is right after it’s been captured. Be careful because with every change to the original imgae, means a change in its data.
  10.   The right equipment: Plan ahead no matter what and make sure you have all the right equipment needed.


Types of photographs: [4]

  • Portraits 
  •  Candids 
  • Pets 
  • Landscapes 
  • Still lifes 
  •  Silhouettes 
  •  Cities 
  • Architectural detail 

Digital Photography 


Digital cameras – Use memory cards instead of film. The pictures can be printed multiple times and some of them can be decorated, processed, and/or changed completely from the original. The more modern cameras are digital. [3]


Positives to using a digital camera: [3]

       “no cost pictures”: Sometimes there is no cost to printing the pictures depending on if you have a printer or not. Because of the use of SD cards, there can be a lot of pictures saved on to one card. You can use them to print off pictures at home using a regular printer or a picture printer. One picture can be printed off multiple times. 

      “Instant Feedback”: Digital cameras have a feature that allows the camera holder to view the picture(s) they have just taken to see if they turned out the way the camera holder wanted them to be.

      “Quick Change Light Sensitivity”: There is a feature in the camera that allows the camera operator to change the light sensitivity quickly and easily in order to create the best picture possible.

      “Colors Stay True”: A feature that allows the pictures to be shown to their truest selves. Older pictures tend to turn green after a while, where digital cameras keep the colors in the pictures the way there were since the moment they were taken.

      “More freedom to shoot”: The camera operator is “free to shoot whatever you want, whenever you want, without restrictions of cost, color, light levels, and more.”

      “More Connection to the subject”: Because of digital cameras the camera holder is able to view the pictures just taken instantly it creates an instant connection between the photographer and the subject.

      “More fun making pictures”: The easy way to use the camera and everything that can be done with the pictures makes making pictures more enjoyable.


Types of Digital Cameras: [3]

“Mini digital cameras”

  •  Basic Point-and-Shoot Cameras: These types of mini digital cameras are very basic, used for casual photography, has “few operational choices beyond simply turning the camera on and off”, there are a few of them that don’t have a zoom option, low megapixels, low quality lenses, limited “camera speed and processing capabilities”, and the delay time between taking the picture and the camera actually records it is very noticeable. 
  • Standard Point-and-Shoot Cameras: They have more control, “designed for light usage”, still have better low megapixels, and “better quality lenses.” 
  • Sophisticated Point-and-Shoot Cameras: They have high “megapixels, white balance options, ISO setting flexibility, multiple exposure modes, multiple focus modes, expanded zoom range, and special features such as weather proofing.” 

“Advanced Compact Cameras”

  •  These types of cameras have high megapixels, they are smaller than a digital SLR camera, but bigger than a mini camera. They have “easy-to-use auto functions”, “built-in and external flash capabilities”, wide zoom ranges, excellent quality, pro-level material lenses, and are “designed for moderate to heavy amateur shooting.” 

“Digital SLR Cameras”

  •  D-SLR = Digital Single-Lens-Reflex
  •  These types have through-the-lens viewing, interchangeable lenses, and customizable functions. 
  •  Types of SLR Cameras:
    •   “Pro” cameras 
      • These cameras are professional cameras, heavy, expensive, sophisticated controls, and offers “an abundance of options.” 
    • “Advanced Amateur” 
      • These cameras have all-metal bodies with “moderate moisture and dust sealing”, “moderate camera speeds”, and “high-speed auto focus.” 
    • Family or mass market 
      • These kinds of cameras are small, easy-to-use, less expensive, slower camera speeds, and less sophisticated autofocus. 


Digital Camera Abilities: [3]

  • Autofocus 
  •  Exposure 
    • Modes 
    • User-controlled exposure modes 
    • Using the LCD and histogram 
    •  Memory cards 
      • Size 
      • Downloading 
      • Clearing it 
    • Batteries 
    • Lenses 
    •  Depth of field 
    •  Maximizing image sharpness 
    • Flash made easy 

Printing [3]


When printing pictures, keep in mind:

  • Paper weight and thickness
  •  Opacity
  •  Surface
  • Whiteness
  • Life span
  • Different uses
  • Specialty papers
  •  Rolls and sheets
  • Manufacturer convenience


Preparation of printing

  •  Image-processing programs
  •  Black and white
  •  Curves
  • Selections
  • Hae/saturation
  •  Color balance
  • Variations
  •  Layers
  •  Image sharpness
  •  Noise management


      Photojournalism has led to many debates as to just how important the photograph is. Are we to take every photo as truth? Can the viewer of the photo really know the circumstances behind the image? Have we seen so many shocking photographs that we are now numbed to their shock factor? Photographs are history... By the time you have taken the picture, the event is over. Susan Sontag discusses this in detail in her book, On Photography. If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words would it be worth to see beyond the scope of the camera. To be able to see the shot get set up for example or to see the man off to the side holding your child hostage to make you pose for a propoganda picture. Is taking a picture to show the world the true attrocities enough? Susan Sontag defines the photograph as a 'trace' directly stencilled off reality, like the footprint or the death mask. [1] Later, in the same piece, she (Sontag) notes our reluctance to tear up photos of relatives, or the symbolic rejection of politicians through burning their images. [1] (pg.40)

Criticism of Photography

     Susan Sontag has written many essays on photographic criticism that have been compiled into a book. The book is entitled, On Photography. In the piece, In Plato's Cave, she wrote 24 pages on how photography distances itself from the subject and how it is essentially an intrusion for which the photographer makes no excuses. Ms. Sontag also makes some very strong statements about what she calls non-intervention. She believed that photojournalists will take the photo of a person being killed in the name of the photo being more important than saving one life. The justification would be that in exchange for the one life, many can be saved.

     We believe the photograph to be 'fact,' although as Tagg has pointed out, it is impossible to have a simple 'denoted' message - all messages are constructed. (Tagg 1988: 1-5) [1] (pg.158)

     Susan Sontag writes of photography from a realism/indexical perspective. A differing perspective is offered by Max Kozloff. He is also the author of a book of essays on the subject of photography, entitled, Photography and Fascination. Mr. Kozloff believes photography is from more of a witness/autographic perspective. By this he means that photographs cannot be taken completely literally. We must approach the photos as if they are a witness on-trial. Witnesses are not infallible. They may possibly have misunderstood what they saw. Photographs being seen by anyone other than the photographer may be misunderstood by the viewer, as well. [1] (pg.41)  

 Implications For Media Ecology

     Photography is an important addition to Media Ecology. It is much easier to get a graphic point across to the masses using photojournalism. It is hard to discount visual evidence of attrocities, yet we have to remember that behind every photograph is a history. The rest of the story lies just beyond the camera's lens.

     The photographic message can be construde as either a connoted or denoted one. In 'Photography: A Critical Introduction' this is explained as being the difference between fabricated and factual images. (pg 158)

      “A picture is worth a thousand words” [6] A phrase that is common said everywhere. But even though the quote is a famous one does not mean it is correct. Pictures can have a thousand or more words used to describe it, but without the captions to tell us what is going on in the picture, then it is merely a picture and nothing more.


     [1] Photography: A Critical Introduction Edited by Liz Wells, Routledge London, 1997.

     [2] On Photography by SusanSontag, Anchor Books Doubleday NY,New York, 1990.

     [3] Digital Photography 1, 2, 3, Rob Sheppard, New York, 2008.

     [4] The Everything Digital Photography Book, Rick deGaris Doble, Massachusetts, 2008.

     [5] Digital Photography Essentials, Tom Ang, New York, 2011.

     [6] Comprehensive Guide for Camera Collectors, David Williamson, Pennsylvania.


Related Class Documents Susan Sontag ''In Plato's Cave'' from her book On Photography


External Links http://www.ajmorris.com/roots/photo/


External Sources


Original Author:  Genia Wyatt



Comments (13)

Jeff Martinek said

at 10:38 am on Sep 12, 2008

Will a new low-price, high-def video camera make traditional still cameras obsolete?


Jeff Martinek said

at 10:38 am on Sep 12, 2008

I love your opening quote, I think the page looks good!
-- SarahAnderson (2008-04-24 20:06:36)

DigitalJose said

at 9:24 am on Sep 30, 2008

How about this, even lower than the RED, better quality and it will do both stills ad 1080P Video. This will change media and those of us who embrace it, for ever.

Jeff Martinek said

at 11:53 pm on Oct 12, 2008

Huge list of photography sites: http://www.ipl.org/div/subject/browse/hum20.65.00/

Jeff Martinek said

at 8:22 pm on Oct 20, 2008

Jeff Martinek said

at 11:51 pm on Oct 20, 2008

Some important books:

The Camera Viewed: Writings on Twentieth-Century Photography (1979)
Classic Essays on Photography (1980)
Photography in Print (1981)
Reading into Photography (1982)
Thinking Photography (1982)
The Contest of Meaning (1989)
The Critical Image (1990

Jeff Martinek said

at 11:56 pm on Oct 20, 2008

More books:

Max Kozloff's Photography & Fascination (1979), A. D. Coleman's Light Readings (1979), Frank Webster's The New Photography (1980) Jonathan Green's American Photography (1984).

Jeff Martinek said

at 9:28 pm on Oct 27, 2008

Jeff Martinek said

at 7:05 pm on Nov 19, 2008

Life Magazine online photo archive is here: http://images.google.com/hosted/life

Jeff Martinek said

at 1:06 pm on Nov 26, 2008

Article in Salon.com about the rise in "upskirt" photography---people using cellphone cameras to invade privacy, then posting images online:


Jeff Martinek said

at 4:22 pm on Dec 8, 2008

Article about the end of polaroid film:


You don't have permission to comment on this page.