Photography is a way of making a permanent image on light-sensitive materials. Before 1839, the only way to show how something looked was to draw a picture, paint a painting, or trace it. Now there are photographs in family albums, books, newspapers, billboards, magazines. Photographs can be sent around the world via computers in a manner of seconds. Satellites in space send back stunning photographs of the earth and enable us to view our planet as we have never been able to before. Specialized robots embedded with cameras can be stationed on the rim of a volcano and send back minute by minute images of the volcanic activity taking place. Tiny cameras are used to view the actual workings of a patient's stomach. Powerful microscopes can take actual photographs of atoms. Pressure-resistent, waterproof cameras take photos of the deepest parts of the ocean where no one has ever been. Photography has helped change how we view our earth and has added to our knowledge of our planet.
It took imagination to invent the photographic process. Imagination places a part in the creative process of taking photographs.
Sample some of the following activities to learn more about photography.
The following are places to go (some real and some virtual) to find out about photography.
This site has a collection of more than 650 daguerreotypes dating from 1839 to 1864. Portrait daguerreotypes produced by the Mathew Brady studio make up part of the collection
Visit the American Museum of Photography. From this site, you can trace the history of the recorded image in all the various forms it has been used.
Travel to the International Museum of Photography and Film. See their timeline of photograhic history and their exhibitions and collections
National Geographic slideshows demonstrating the evolution of photography
Award-winning photos from around the world
Meet Alice Austen, a prolific photographer from New York City. She has been called the female Mathew Brady. In the late 1880s, she took thousands of photographs, chronicling the life of immigrants and laborers and recording historic events.
Get to know Ansel Adams. He was an American photographer who lived from 1902 to 1984. He is particularly famous for his photographs of the southwestern United States and for his work for the conservation of unspoiled America
Meet Félix Nadar. In the 1850s, he went up in a balloon and tok the first aerial photographs. In 1853, he opened a photographic studio in Paris and took photos of famous people. This site shows his photograph of Alexandre Dumas, French author of The Three Musketeers. (Nice haircut, n'est pas?)
Make the acquaintance of Hippolyte Bayard who was also involved in the development of photography. In 1839, he put together the first photo exhibit in a gallery. He did not get good advice about how to patent his process, and Daguerre, Talbot, and others gained credit and exposure for creating the process. Find out what Bayard did to protest being slighted
Spend some time with Jacques Mande Daguerre. He worked with Joseph Nicèphore Niepce. Daguerre's photographic process used silver iodide on a highly polished, silver-coated copper plate. Like Niepce, Daguerre put his plate inside a camera obscura. He the exposed it to vapors of heated mercury and dipped it in a bath or salt water. The pictures that he made were called daguerreotypes
Meet Joseph Nicèphore Niepce. He is known as one of the Fathers of Photography. He made the first known photography in 1826 using a process where he put bitumen of Judea which is a tar-like substance on a polished pewter plate and placed it in a camera obscura for 8 hours. In 1816, he also creatd the first negatie on paper while working with silver salts
Meet Julia Margaret Cameron. She was one of the first major women photographers. She received her first camera in 1863 when she was 48 years old. She worked to make photogrphy accepted as an art, and her natural portraits were a departure from the stiff, formal pictures usually taken in her time
Matthew Brady learned the daguerreotype photographic process from Samuel Morse and opened his own photographic studio in New York City in 1844. He eventually successfully learned the wet-plate process of photography. He began photographing President Lincoln in 1860. When the Civil War began Brady was authorized to accompany and photograph the armies; through his efforts a vast visual record of the war was preserved
Queen Victoria actually helped the art of photography become popular. She encouraged photography in her royal household, and it became popular in England. Before photography, the only portraits of people that existed had to be, of course, hand-painted, and only the rich could afford this. Photography made portraits available to the middle class because it was so much cheaper that having a family portrait painted
Visit with William Henry Fox Talbot. He invented a photographic process called calotype and in 1839 published the first book illustrated with photographs. This book was called The Pencil of Nature. Talbot's work led to the photography methods used in film today
A PBS companion site focuses on the growth of photography as a chronicle of our times
A site to teach and illustrate the basic vocabulary of photography analysis.
Find excellent explanations of how a camera operates and a basic introduction to the principles of composition
Learn how to take the best pictures.
Make a camera from an oatmeal box. Instead of using a glass lens, it forms it forms an image with a tiny hole drilled into a piece of aluminum cut from a soft drink can
The scientific basis of photography involves physics and chemistry. This site has a student tour which begins with a basic introduction to the science of optics
- Evans, Arthur G. First Photos : How Kids Can Take Great Pictures. Redondo Beach, Calif.: Photo Data Research, c1992.
- Finkle, Cyndi. Camera Crafts : Creative Projects to Make with Your Camera and a Good Roll of Film. Los Angeles: Lowell House Juvenile; Chicago: Contemporary Books, c1997.
- Gibbons, Gail. Click! A Book About Photography and Taking Pictures. Boston: Little, Brown, c1997.
- King, Dave. My First Photography Book. London; New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1994.
- Price, Susanna. Fun With Photography. New York: Sterling Pub., 1997.
- Varriale, Jim. Take A Look Around: Photography Activities for Young People. Brookfield, Conn. : Milbrook Press, c1999.
- Wilson, Keith. Photography. New York: Random House, 1994.