The Beginning | Week 1: The Global Image | Positions and Practice

A World Wide Medium

I was fascinated to have been introduced the very first photographic image ‘View from the Window at Le Gras’ by Joseph Nicephore Niece in 1826 outside the Helmut Gernsheim & Kodak Research Laboratory, Harrow, England. I can only imagine their inner excitement as they directed the camera obscura towards the window to capture the worlds first still moment in time to be kept forever. This is what I like about this photo, it didn’t matter what it was, they had to mirror their immediate environment, it could had been anything and it would have been an interesting image. This for me goes along with the theme of the global image, as where ever the camera is globally at the time art can be created by capturing a still image.

The story behind the image

A computerised Image, a drawing and a watercolour of the ‘View from the Window at Le Gras’

Information and Image Source

This image speaks a lot as of course it’s hard to make everything out, the blur and grain make a clear statement of its age. I was surprised when I viewed the computerised representation, as I at first thought the light part in the centre was a field, however it is now apparent that it was a building in the middle, it just goes to show how far we’ve moved on through technology being able to do this.

And not to mention how fast the technology moves, by the next photo taken by Louis Daguerre just over 10 years later in 1838..

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Image Source

‘Boulevard Du Temple’ above was exposed for 10-15 minutes whilst the ‘view from the window at Le Gras’ was exposed for a lengthy time of 8 hours! It’s a good thing Louis was able to begin the process of a more reasonable speed when he wished this new ability to be a free gift to the world. However the really interesting thing about this photo and it exposure time was that it was the first photo to have people included, the bottom left you can see that there is two people performing a shoe shine. The streets would have been filled with people at the time of taking this photograph but due to the long exposure time, no one was captured apart from these two due to the fact them having to have been in the same place for the duration of the exposure whilst everyone else would have have been moving too much to be visible in the photograph. With the daguerreotype spreading fast, eventually becoming affordable and bringing new businesses (e.g Richard Beards first studio in London 1841) would have enabled people who were never skilled at, or didn’t have the time to perform a detailed painting to find a new way of capturing a moment in time.

January 7, 1839 Paris announcement in The Literary Gazette – Source

“We have much pleasure in announcing an important discovery made by M. Daguerre, the celebrated painter of the Diorama. This discovery seems like a prodigy. It disconcerts all the theories of science in light and optics and, if born out, promises to make a revolution in the arts of design.”

Do I see any parallels between the historic spread of photography and the transmission of digital imagery today?

Yes, when being able to take photos on the mobile phone it spread immensely quickly due to the fact that pretty much everyone needed a phone, therefor everyone would hold a camera. Trends are also quick to follow, for example when scrolling through Instagram I have noticed a certain theme or editing style the majority tend to follow which may lead to someone who never saw themselves as being a photograph want to jump on the wagon and become one.

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“This report released earlier this year points out that there are 5.2 Billion mobile phones on the planet for a population of 4.3 Billion users (yes, some people have multiple phones). 83% of all phones have cameras. The survey cites that 90% of all people who take pictures have only done so on a camera phone.” – Source

Are there any problems at which the spread of the photograph moves?

I believe that the problem comes down to the camera in the phones, smartphones image taking capability has become increasingly advanced due to the point where some smart phones are able to take a higher MP shot than some SLR camera. This, in my opinion leads to the photography community and art form itself becoming over saturated. This being because the smart phone cameras are now so powerful, everyone has one, anyone can take their phone out and point it at something, take a shot, edited it with a preset filter and call themselves a photographer with out the basic knowledge of shutter speeds, aperture or ISO.

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Windows on The World

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In being that the two earliest images taken by Niepce and Daguerre and this first ever negative created by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1844 above, all included windows, I would agree in saying that it is very fitting when using ‘the architectural window’ to describe the camera and photography as a whole. A window can be looked out of, a window can be looked into, this being said..

What do I think of the window and mirror analogy?

Window – Reality.

Mirror – Personality.

I believe that if you’re taking the stance of the window, you are letting the world come towards you and your camera. Coming across the more reality based life events, documenting a crisis or shooting an unexpected happening that crosses your path e.g a car crash, an aftermath of a hurricane or Jeff Wideners ‘Tank Man’. You are simply there at the right place at the right time. A mirror on the other hand to me is the photographer projecting there personality outwards, looking to be much more creative and putting there own spin on reality.

Do I Identify with one or the other?

I have played the part in both roles, but I would definitely say more so the mirror. I actively plan to compose an image with the use of a subject model, location and finish the image off with a heavy edit to reach an image as closest to what I had envisioned.

Unity and Change

97690_3696197Sadie Pfeifer, a Cotton Mill Spinner, Lancaster, South Carolina, 1908

Lewis W. Hine proves that photographs have the power to change views on a world wild scale when he was hired to work in secret by the national child labour committee. It is a shame he passed only 2 years after the change had been made on the laws for child labour due to his work, but it is also a positive thing that he lived to see his mission completed. He used his photography as a tool to attempt to humanise and make a change and I find what he did to be truly inspirational.

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– Image Source

On a side note, what I find interesting about these 3 images is the different expressions ranging from curiosity, shock to posed. Being that Hines was working in secret, would it be the case that he was undercover? Surly it would be hard to hide his equipment to the size of the cameras in the 19th century. Aside from his candid work, would he have had to whisper to the child to get them to stand still? Would he have had to make sure no one was looking? Would he had to work in complete silence? Dangerous work.

“Hine’s work for the NCLC was often dangerous. As a photographer, he was frequently threatened with violence or even death by factory police and foremen. At the time, the immorality of child labor was meant to be hidden from the public. Photography was not only prohibited but also posed a serious threat to the industry. To gain entry to the mills, mines and factories, Hines was forced to assume many guises. At times he was a fire inspector, postcard vendor, bible salesman, or even an industrial photographer making a record of factory machinery.” – Source

Do I think the power of the photograph is overstated or understated?

I do not think that it has ever been overstated nor understated. Maybe understated before the acts of justice like Hines and Riis’s examples.. I just think that over time, photography has become over saturated and is now too easy to manipulate with editing software. We’ve reached a point where if someone where to catch a phenomenal shot, it will always be questioned if it is real or not, the same goes for the majority of video nowadays.

Do I think this devalues the true extent of the role of the photograph in bring about change?

Yes. With the editing tools that are around now, I think a photo serving as evidence will always be questioned unless taken on a film camera with a witness, unfortunately.

Do I think the still image is stronger than the video?

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These two image above were captured in both of the formats. Whilst both horrifying to view, I believe the video brings you into the fast paced reality of the situation, but the photo has more impact on the brain, allowing a space to think, spark questions, emotions and imagination to any viewer.

What Photographs and bodies of work do I think have inspired Unity and Change?

Lewis W. Hines work along with other images that rise awareness and act as a window to what is happening in the world, I’ve picked a select few from this Source..

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The Global Image

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The global image means different things to different people. Some people see it as a message for unity and change, some see it as a window to let in light and others a refection to alter. Everyone uses the photograph because it is the one way we can take what we see from our own eyes out of life itself and capture it onto paper or pixels.

“The Blue Marble” photograph of Earth, taken by the Apollo 17 lunar mission. –

 

How did photography become a global medium?

Why wouldn’t people want to capture moments in life and the beauty of others so that they can live forever?

How does my work relate to the global natural of photography?

I have taken photos around the world in both a window and reflective stance, but in conclusion, to me, the global image means using photography to capture the moments not everyone will stop to see.

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What has challenged me?

Pin pointing an exact meaning the the term ‘the global image’ due to its size.

What has surprised me?

Peoples different takes on the term.

What do I feel I have learned?

A great deal about how photography was introduced and quickly spread globally.

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