Monday, October 6, 2008


We briefly discussed photography in class last week. But I wanted to discuss it a little bit more, since last year I took a very interesting class that broadened my knowledge on the history of photography. Shockingly enough, it wasn't even a photography class. It was a class called "philosophy of the environment". Toward the end of the class, our teacher shared a lot of information about how tedious the process was, and how long it took to get a good image of the outdoors. Camera's were certainly not very portable. If you wanted an 8x10 of a landscape, a photographer had to carry a camera that could hold a 8x10 plate in it to capture the image on. These plates were not cheap, and they were heavy! Definitely not portable! So to get this photograph of a landscape, your photographer would have to carry a huge camera and multiple plates around with him or her. There is no way they could get the perfect shot, in one take. My teacher also explained to us that these plates had to be processed immediately. So on top of carrying the plates, and the camera, your photographer would have to carry around all of the chemicals needed, and in some cases a portable dark room tent. That sounds like a lot of work when compared to how easy it is to capture a photograph of a landscape today with our digital cameras. However, some will argue that you can't beat the quality and detail of an original Daguerreotype. My teacher will argue that the Daguerreotype process produces a much better image then a digital camera any day.

1 comment:

April G. said...

I find this fascinating as well. It's amazing that they carried around such large cameras and sometimes came home with nothing to show for all of their hard work. Topographic photographers like William Henry Jackson used a 20x24" camera with glass plates and hiked into the Rocky Mountains with all that equipment! It's amazing they could do it at all. Several of the early topographic photographers were Civil War photographers, so it seems that the work of photographing the war would have toughened them up quite a bit.

In the Beaumont Newhall book, "The History of Photography" it has this little story... "Two of the men who had made a trip to the Kanab Canyon did not get a single negative. 'The silver bath had got out of order and the horse bearing the camera fell off a cliff and landed on top of the camera, which had been tied on the outside of the pack, with a result that need not be described.'"

That poor horse. But that poor photographer. What a disappointment that must have been.