The impact of photography on history is overwhelming. People would have remembered the important events in the history quite differently if it was not for the invention of photography some 200 years ago. The early black and white and grainy photos were the first-ever method to capture places and people in real-time. Photography changed the way historians used to document history. Similarly, it brought about massive social change by influencing public opinion. In this article, we are going to discuss how has photography changed the world for good.
A Brief History of Photography
It became quite clear that the photography is a means for the common folks to be remembered right after the first photograph was taken in 1826 0r 1827. Before that, a common man has to do something noteworthy or carve his name into a famous monument to leave his mark on the history. However, photography made it possible for everyone to have their portraits taken.
As Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard remarked about photography in the 19th century, “with the daguerreotype, everyone will be able to have their portrait taken – formerly it was only prominent – and at the same time everything is being done to make us all look exactly the same, so we shall only need one portrait.” Keep in mind that the daguerreotype was the first successful photography model, introduced by Louis Daguerre in 1837.
Soren Kierkegaard was right about everyone being able to take their photographs. However, he couldn’t be more wrong about looking the same and thus needing only one portrait. Photography has helped millions of people explore the richness and diversity of the world around them. It has highlighted how the world is different in so many ways instead of emphasizing the uniformity of life.
Please note that photography was originally a medium to take portraits only rather than a tool to explore diversity. And, everyone in the portraits did look the same. People would pose expressionlessly for their portraits because they were very expensive in the beginning. Nobody wanted to ruin a portrait with an odd expression. Similarly, people would only wear fancy clothes and avoid everything that could possibly ruin the final image.
It was also difficult for both photographers and their subjects to use the technology itself. The original cameras were too big and heavy. Photographers have to load a single silver-plated sheet coated with numerous chemicals in their cameras. There were no flashcards with a capacity of thousands of images or a convenient roll of 24 exposures. People also had to stay perfectly still because of agonizingly long exposure times ranging from a minute to 15 minutes.
How has Photography Changed the World?
You would be surprised to learn that dead people were the subjects in some of the best images from that era. Only the dead were able to hold a pose for such a long time to create a focused image.
It has become a breeze to create portraits in the 21st century. Photographers can try multiple times to create perfect portraiture. They no longer have to nail the job in one try. We can take a countless number of images in the modern digital era. Similarly, cameras have become so common that everyone has them on their computers, smartphones, and other devices. Even DSLRs and point-and-shoots have become too ubiquitous.
Photography Explores Diversity and Richness
But how has photography changed the world? To begin with, modern photography equipment offer so many opportunities. We no longer need to have stern expressions and hold rigid poses while getting our portraits captured. We can explore and search for something extraordinary and unique just by having the ability to take hundreds of photographs in one sitting. It is a big departure from the search for uniformity that was the trademark of the first few decades of photography. We can also now record fleeting expressions thanks to the fast exposure times. Similarly, we can add all the expressions, mystery, joy, or anything we need in the images because of the ability to shoot in all light conditions.
Yes, Kierkegaard was spot on with his prediction. Photography is not only the domain of rich and prominent. Everyone can have a camera and take as many images as he likes. However, modern portraits are not all the same. Every image or portrait is different from others. Every expression, every movement, every moment is different. It is one of the many ways photography has changed the world. After all, no one wants to miss the chance of seeing the world through his or her eyes.
Photography offers Accuracy
Another way photography has changed the world is by making it smaller than ever before and bringing us close together. Now, you can see the real thing even if you are living in another corner of the world. In simple words, photography has provided use with accuracy and truth.
Most of us are not good at painting. We cannot use the pencil or brush to create what our mind sees or thinks. However, even the best of the artists only present an interpretation of the reality in their sketches and paintings.
Photography is different from paintings and sketches. Photos always have a layer of truth even though you can use a lens to create effectors or manipulate images in the Photoshop or post-processing. Unlike paintings, every image captures a real and true scene unfolding in front of the camera.
That brings us to accuracy. Artists that specialize in photorealistic techniques do their best to be accurate while painting events like cases in courtrooms. However, their work cannot be as accurate as a simple, unprocessed photograph no matter how detailed it is. Maybe the artist has taken some liberties with the scene or the colors he has used don’t represent the truth accurately. An image or photo, even taken by a novice photographer, will always show the truth. It will also present every single detail whether big or small accurately and explain what exactly happened.
Photography Makes the World Smaller
Apart from truth and accuracy, the photography has made the world too small. Nowadays, we can easily look at the things happening thousands of miles away. However, this wasn’t the main focus of photography in the early years. But it caught people’s fancy when photographers in the foreign lands started capturing strange sights easily and inexpensively and sending them back home for people’s viewing. They couldn’t see such unusual things without the invention of photography.
This is, in fact, one of the most amazing facets of photography. For example, how many of us have been to an actual battlefield. But – we can still see the harrowing war images and see its truth thanks to the brave photographers who have. We cannot travel back in time to see all the amazing events that occurred at the turn of the twentieth century. However, we can have a sense of how people lived during that time because of a huge collection of photos from that era.
Every one of us can go through these photos and look at famous monuments, rare animals and plants, and important events that are otherwise impossible to be experienced personally. We should be thankful to the photographers who took the pain and document these things for us.
Finally, our world would have been different without photography. It would certainly be not as rich, colorful, diverse, and beautiful as it is. Therefore, you must be proud every time you take a photograph because it can bring us closer and change the world.