Wednesday, 11 April 2012

History and Inspiration Part 1

Hi there!

Firstly, I apologise for the huge gap in time since my last post, without going into got in the way!

Now that's out of the way, I'll carry on with what I promised ages ago, that my next post will be about the history of photography but i'm going to split it into 2 parts as I feel its too much for one post and probably easier to digest in this way (for me at least!) - its not the whole history of photography, just a snippet to get you thinking about it..........

I'll mention some sources via links so that you can get to them if you want to read up more in-depth information and if you want to continue the journey through your own research.  The first of these links is and you will see why i've chosen this, its a good place to start.  If we jump straight to 1816 we meet Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, a French gentleman who was obviously excited by the newly discovered medium of lithography which was in use c1813 across France.  He used this medium to experiment further using the camera obscura (mentioned previously on the timeline) but it took years of experiments to get the image as we know it today.  He set the camera obscura with a polished pewter plate inside, which had a layer of bitumen coated onto it.  The set up was in front of a window and would be left for long hours with the lens cap removed to let the light in, once he felt it was time, he removed the plate and washed it with a white petroleum mixture which dissolved the bitumen that had not been hardened by the light.  What was left behind was a permanent imprinted image of the roof tops of buildings in the courtyard "View from the Window at Le Gras" (1826) which in my mind is a true wonder in itself!  Not until 1952 were attempts made to reproduce this image, by Kodak no less.  

So why have I mentioned this and what is the importance of the history of photography?  Well, as an artist I want to know where my creative medium comes from, its great having inspiration and imagination but when all else fails and I am struggling to feel inspired, I try to go back to basics, not on technicality but on the pure genius of people such as Niépce.  Just reading about how he was inspired can be enough to get the creative juices flowing!  The timeline is a great place to start as it can lead you in all sorts of directions, for instance here for more information on Niépce.  

I'm no expert on the history of photography, and that's why I want to share it as I learn it, so I'm not saying you MUST know this stuff but it's obvious in an age where digital is the medium of choice, that most of us do want to know where it all started.  We are now in an age where we even see digital painting, so in that sense it's no different from a digital painter wanting to know more about Cezanne or Picasso or even being an established painter using....well, paint!  So we all want to be taking better photographs, we are all perfectionists and our own worst critics but remember the hurdles that were strode over by others for us to be able to take a shot, look at it instantly and discard or save it as the moment takes us.  Just take a second to stop, step back and appreciate what you have created and think of that View from a Window at Le Gras and the 8 or so hours it took to create.....and the years beyond that it took before it was reproduced.  I respect the history of my chosen art form because without it, I simply couldn't persue what I love and make my own history :)