Evolution of the Photograph

When the first photograph was taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826, the commoners hailed it as the most spectacular invention that the human race had come up with. Indeed, it was an invention to behold, but how many of you would’ve thought about why it was invented in the first place?


Like any scientific discovery, the photograph was an experiment born out of repeated unsuccessful iterations. What started out in black and white, and slowly evolved to broaden its spectrum to a multitude of colors. The concept of photography was relatively new in the 19th century and people were slowly finding ways to use it. The early adopters of photography were the liberalists, who utilised the idea of using visuals to appeal strongly to the seekers of freedom. This is when people started to realize its true potential. It helped in uniting the masses in one single frame, paving way for a stronger rebellion against the infringers of freedom.


Then came the elite idea of making films. Filmography is inarguably the greatest exponent of this art. It transpired (and still does) really well with the masses who considered this as an ideal form of entertainment and a way to divert themselves from the otherwise stolid life they were leading. Could films have had any purpose outside of entertaining people? Yes they had. Considering the then growing influence of films on society, the film-makers started centering storylines on social issues. People had to be educated on what was happening around them, and there was no better way to appeal to them than through mass media.


The photograph was invented to solve a stronger, more abstract purpose than capture mere faces. It catches the emotions of a person stronger than anything. Today, when a holocaust survivors look at the photographs of the cruelty they had gone through, a myriad of emotions cloud their face. This emotional state is a complex one that expresses anguish due to the trauma they had to go through, ecstasy on clutching on to their lives and staying alive today, despair for those who had become unfortunate victims of such inhumane acts.  Why would they want to visit the past if they know that it won’t be pleasant? Why preserve these photos? This isn’t something that they would keep looking. But considering the circumstances that they had been put through, it would be hard to not gravitate towards these photos. The spoils of war leave a person scarred for the entirety of his life.


Photos treat happy and sad moments alike. Try pulling out an antique photo album and lay it in front of some of your oldest surviving members of the family. They would have so much to say about every single photo than when we write answers to a question we don’t know. To them, photos would have meant nothing back then, but that isn’t how they perceive them today.


The concept of photography has undergone a sea of change. We see people trying their best to record every moment in their digital memory. Little do they understand that experiencing the present would serve their happiness a lot better than looking at some pleasant, yet quixotic images from the past. It is being overdone to the extent that snaps have become a symbol of social status and a platform to ostentatiously display daily chores. This absolute mockery of the art is only vindicated by the presence of a few passionate, professional photographers and filmmakers who shoulder the responsibility of preserving the dignity of the art.


The purpose of clicking a photo is left to the individual. One can either choose to disfigure its culture in the name of fashion or give it the respect it deserves for what it has done over the years.

-Seshasayi Rangaraj

Seshasayi Rangaraj

A really passionate writer who prefers expressing emotions through writing than speech.

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