The word photography comes from two ancient Greek words: photo, for “light,” and graph, for “drawing. Writing with Light is a way of describing photography.
Early photographs were called sun pictures, because sunlight itself was used to create the image. With the invention of photography, a realistic image that would have taken a skilled artist hours or even days to draw or paint could be recorded in exact detail within a fraction of a second.
First photograph (ever) by Joseph Nicephore Niepce
PHOTOGRAPHY AS ART
Today photography is widely recognized as a fine art. Photographs are displayed in art museums, prized by collectors, discussed by critics, and studied in art history courses. Because of the special nature of photography, however, this was not always the case.
In the early days of photography some people considered the medium something of a poor relation to the older, established visual arts, such as drawing and painting. The arguments stemmed from the fact that a camera is a mechanical instrument. Because the mechanical procedure of taking a picture is automatic, detractors claimed that photography required no coordination of hand and eye and none of the manual skills essential to drawing and painting. They also argued that photography required no creativity or imagination because the photographic subject was “ready-made” and did not require manipulation or control by the photographer.
A camera, no matter how many automatic features it may have, is a lifeless piece of equipment until a person uses it. It then becomes a uniquely responsive tool – an extension of the photographer’s eye and mind.
A photographer creates a picture by a process of selection. Photographers looking through the camera’s viewfinder must decide what to include and what to exclude from the scene. They select the distance from which to take the picture and the precise angle that best suits their purpose. They select the instant in which to trip the shutter. This decision may require hours of patient waiting until the light is exactly right or it may be a split-second decision, but the photographer’s sense of timing is always crucial. They can freeze motion or record it as a blur, depending on their choice of shutter speed. They can create an infinite number of lighting effects with flashes or floodlights. They can alter the tonal values or colors in a picture by their choice of film and filters. These are only a few of the controls available to a photographer when taking a picture.
A crucial step to getting through this class is also a simple one – make photographs! Lots of them. In order to do this, take your camera with you! You’ll miss out on many photographic opportunities if you don’t!