18th January 2018: A History of Light Drawing (Photography) - by Sue Porter, (Chairman)

January 20, 2018

A wave of Nostalgia swept over me during our Chairman’s presentation evening. Sue took us back to the very beginnings of photography, with the idea of capturing a moment in time with light, technology and chemistry. She gave us a talk on the history of photography, covering everything from the greek origins of the word “photograph”, to the fact that it would take 10 years to view all the photos posted to Snapchat in an hour!  She was interested to know our thoughts on the pros and cons of all the technological change that has brought us to the wonderful world of digital imagery we live in today.

As far back as 1816, experiments for making an image from light, on a flat surface, where being carried out. Starting with trials using silver chloride, carried out by French inventor Nicéphore Niépce, the fascination with reproducing and fixing living scenes led to collaborations and contributions from artists, scientists, physicists and engineers. The progress of photography over the last 200 years has been extraordinary.

For those who were not inventors or scientists, but who still wanted to capture that unique moment in time; that landscape or portrait, the development of the Kodak Box Brownie, in 1900, was an inexpensive tool that anyone could use and brought this wonderful medium to us all.

From there, various companies produced ever more sophisticated, automated and adaptable cameras for professionals and amateurs alike. Leica, Kodak, Canon, Nikon and Hasselblad were all making their mark. I was taken straight back to my childhood, when I saw a picture of the Kodak Instamatic I used as my first camera in the 1960’s - I swear I could still smell those bulbs, and hear them pop, fizz and flash!

Film technology also progressed, from Daguerrotypes, through Calotypes, 3 colour composite images and 35mm cassettes. All this, by the mid twentieth century. 

1957 saw the beginnings of digital technology, with the first digitally scanned images. Meanwhile, camera designed improved to provide through the lens viewing and fully automatic functions. By the 1980’s these improved tools and digital technology came together in a digital stills camera produced by Sony. And, of course, along with the hardware came the software necessary for processing the images. Hot on the heals of the first programme, Digital Darkroom, came Adobe’s Photoshop, now the industry standard.

Since then, camera sensors have improved and grown to the point where small, instant camera’s can produce excellent quality prints. 

Cameras are now everywhere in our lives, from mobile phones, actions cameras and 3d cameras, to the latest camera drones. 

To finish her presentation, Sue suggested that the progress in technology has benefited us by reducing costs and giving us the equipment to access things we wouldn’t otherwise see. On the other hand, perhaps we now record everything from behind the lens, at the risk of withdrawing from experiencing of the real world.

This was a fascinating presentation and one that I learned so much from. 

For the rest of the evening we looked at some interesting displays, photos and old cameras that Sue brought in, as well as a couple of drones brought in by Tony - also fascinating! We then had plenty of time to discuss these and our thoughts on what part, good and bad, technological development has played in photography through time.

All in all, this was a great evening and I really enjoyed the breadth of this subject. Thank you so much to Sue, who was still not quite in the pink and who must have spent hours researching. 

Next week, we have a night of AV presentations - please bring along any AVs you would like to share.

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