A History of Archived Photos

The Renaissance

leonardo-da-vinci-studies-human-anatomyVitruvian Man by Leonardo DaVinci, drawing on paper.

The development of perspective was part of a wider trend towards realism in the arts. To that end, painters also developed other techniques, studying light, shadow, and, famously in the case of Leonardo da Vinci, human anatomy.

The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Florence in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe.

Artists strove to portray the human form realistically, developing techniques to render perspective and light more naturally.

Interest in landscape had derived initially from a romantic view of the wonders of the universe.

Became more scientific as painters began to regard clouds, trees, rocks, and topography worthy of study.

Landscape, nature, and architecture provided congenial subjects for the first photographers.

Most of the 18th century had oil paintings, watercolors, engravings, and lithographs of topical views based on drawings made with the camera obscura.

Evolution Towards Naturalism

renaissance-sculpture-body-anatomyPainting movements rejected the old historical themes for new subjects dealing with mundane events in contemporary life.

Photography satisfied middle-class cravings for instructive and entertaining pictures.

Naturalism, in essence, is simply the idea that human beings are completely included in the natural world: there’s nothing supernatural about us.

Landscape was welcomed as a logical extension of genre, adding faithful representation of topography, historical monuments, and exotic terrain.

Public appetite for scenic views had significant effect on early landscape photographs.

Influence of the Daguerreotype

john-adams-whipple-daguerreotype-of-moonView of the Moon, by Whipple, 26 February 1852

Expeditions to the Yucatan peninsula in 1839 and 1841 were based on use of a camera lucida and daguerreotypes.

Camera provided more accurate translation from drawing to mechanically reproduced print for engravers/lithographers.

Captured public favor before the Civil War and played a major role in Cultural Development (USA).

It demonstrated the transition from Agrarian to Technological Society, and American Nationalism became impulse.

“Made in America.” Refinement became universally known as “the American process.”

Project to identify the first “Miss America” by photographic competition. John Adams Whipple photographed the moon and sent it to London on a silver plate.

Important to scientists and intellectuals. Scientific understanding of material reality was key to economic and social progress.

Landscape photography evolved as a commercial enterprise with capture of well-known natural formations for travelers.

Cameras and Industry

felix-nadar-photographs-paris-from-hot-air-balloonObjective documentation by camera coincided with physical transformation of industrialized countries.

Images commissioned to show bridges and monuments, building of transportation facilities and roads. Reconstruction of Crystal Palace and Great Eastern steamship. Accurate record of engineering process. Old buildings scheduled for demolition photographed.

Hippolyte Bayard made decorous views of streets and buildings in Paris. Joining of cross-continental tracks at Promontory Point. Those behind the cameras were guided in their selection and treatment of material both by a sense of being emissaries of a “higher civilization.”

Felix Nadar was born into a family of printer tradespeople and made photographs underground with artificial light. He was the first to photograph Paris from the air in a balloon.

“that instant of understanding that puts you in touch with the model.”