A Chronology of Photography: A Cultural Timeline From Camera Obscura to Instagram
“a virtual smorgasbord of visual delights, horrors, and insightful tidbits on photographic creators and influencers.”
A Chronology of Photography, subtitled A Cultural Timeline from Camera Obscura to Instagram, is a wide-ranging perspective of photographic image-making from the earliest beginnings to the present uses in social media. It is a compendium that stresses how iconic photographic images have shaped our perception of what photography is, and its place in the world.
The editor of A Chronology of Photography has selected 320 images as a way of pinpointing the development of photography worldwide and his selection is a virtual smorgasbord of visual delights, horrors, and insightful tidbits on photographic creators and influencers.
By highlighting the determinant political events in the timeline it also attempts to show the impact of those events, and the cultural influences on all of the photographic movements over the past 170 years. Major technological developments in photography, even the advent of digital, are briefly mentioned but not dwelt on.
Central to the book and apart from the historical outlook, is an explanation of the way image makers have embraced and understood the implications of photography, reacted to it or exploited it, and how they often exceeded the assumed boundaries of what photography should be. Hence, photography’s application as an investigatory tool for discovery in the hands of scientists, engineers, or astronomers; a documentary tool for recording landscapes and events; a recreational tool for family outings; and as a means of artistic expression in the hands of creatives.
The main objective of this book is to situate photographic images—typically landmark photos—within their historical context over the decades, and rather than reproducing images on the page at a large size that allows the viewer to luxuriate in their beauty and impact, they are used as signposts of development and relevance.
While sandwiching iconic images between major world events makes it easier for readers to understand the development of photography on a larger scale, of necessity it means that the majority of images will be smaller on the page—typically 4 x 3 inches or smaller—in order to allow space for the timeline graphic at the bottom of the page, and the extensive captions for each entry. Occasionally the book’s format departs from this timeline layout to use a themed motif in a two-page spread, for example, Staged Photography, Self-Portrait, Crime, etc., as section headings that allows the photographs to be larger and unencumbered.
Each timeline in the two-page spread covers a three-year period within a decade, i.e., 1903–1905. The captions for the photographs highlighted in the timeline are extensive, contextualizing the photos, and expanding our understanding surrounding their creation and influence.
The book is very detailed, especially at the beginning in relating the development of the daguerreotype, the calotype, the inventors, and the camera obscura.
A Chronology of Photography is a wealth of information that can educate those new to photography or those wanting to broaden their knowledge, understand its roots and growth, and perhaps get how we have arrived at the age of the selfie. The book is also a superb springboard providing a glimpse into the work of many photographers and movements worth exploring.