American Photography

Essay by Pugsley08University, Bachelor'sA, February 2004

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Since the 15th century, many people attempted to make a photograph, unfortunately the majority of them failed. John Herschel was the first person to use the word photography, which derived from the Greek words for light and writing. He also made the photographic process public in France in 1839. In the 19th century, the majority of the pictures that were taken were of famous Victorians who could pay for such a privilege. Only in the 20th century did the goal behind photographs shift away from capturing a reallife moment to posing for the camera. Although photographs were invented in order to be able to record history, to reminisce about the past, and to capture a reallife event, with the help of new technology and new technique now pictures are being used in order to capture happy moments, to alter the reality, and to reach perfection. One thing that has stayed consistent throughout centuries is how much being in front of the camera alters our body, by either making us hold still for a long time or by making us put on a mask in front of the camera.

While many of us do not realize it, when we get in front of the camera we put our bodies in uncomfortable positions, we alter our behavior, and then we have to hold still allowing the camera to capture an image.

In slightly over a century and a half, photographs have gone from being precious objects that were passed from generation to generation to something that's not only easy to attain, but also easy to alter. There are two scientific processes that make photographs possible and it was not until these two distinct processes had been put together that made photography a reality. The first process is optical. Since the 16th century...