Story of Photography, Michael Langford, Focal Press

Michael Langford Story of Photography reviewed in the Technofile by MC Rebbe The Rapping Rabbi

Photography has been with us for longer than you might think. In 1800, or thereabouts, Thomas Wedgwood (of pottery fame) created the first photograms, by coating bits of leather with silver nitrate, putting leaves on top of them and exposing them to the sun. Unfortunately though, he lacked a way to permanently ‘fix’ his creations, which, as a result, could only be viewed in weak candlelight.

Before Wedgwood came the work of Professor J. Schulze, who, in 1727, became the first person to discover the light sensitive nature of silver…before which came the invention of the camera obscura, which goes back to (at least) the renaissance. After Wedgwood came Nicephore Niepce, the first person to create a permanent photographic image and then Daguerre, whose modestly named (well he was French) ‘Daguerreotype’ was so popular in 1840s Paris, that it famously resulted in one painter declaring “From today painting is dead!” But it was Englishman, Henry Fox Talbot, who, during the same decade, revolutionised photography, by creating the world’s first negative based photographic process.

If you want to know what happened next, you’ll require this book, which takes you on a highly readable journey from the pre-history of photography all the way through to the birth of digital.

Its 216 pages and 200+ illustrations are divided into two halves. The first deals with the technical evolution of photography. The second deals with photography’s development as a medium, covering, amongst other things, documentary, pictorialism, modernism and post modernism, in the process introducing most (though not all) of photography’s key players.

Unfortunately 216 pages is nowhere near enough to do the subject justice and many important names are mentioned merely in passing or omitted altogether. Also the book only goes up to the tail end of the 80s and so misses out most of the important developments in digital imaging. Nevertheless, the information and illustrations on offer provide both an excellent overview and a great starting point for further research/reading that will appeal to most ages and all levels of experience.

MC Rebbe The Rapping Rabbi awards Story of Photography by Michael Langfor 4 bagels in The Technofile

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