#228. Visual History of Cameras or Photographic Dream Catcher?

By pascaljappy | Opinion

May 16

Infographics are so overused these days that we hardly pay any attention to them anymore. But this one is endearing, retracing the history of the camera from the early camera obscura to the 1980s.

A Short History of Cameras (c) Retrofuturismo-Kitsch (clik to access visual.ly original)

A Short History of Cameras (c) Retrofuturismo-Kitsch (clik to access visual.ly original)

Endearing, then. But also very interesting:

  • First of all, the 33 year history since the end of this timeline is probably at least as rich in innovations and paradigm shifts as the whole 10 centuries before it.  Come to think of it, in that huge period of time, film was invented. First on glass plates, then on sheets. Then in rolls, and we can thank that dark period for its horrendous 3:2 aspect ratio legacy 😉 Apart from polaroïd, nothing much new, except for minor ergonomic evolutions (yes, I am being deliberately provocative). Since then, CCD came to life, and CMOS, and open systems such as the Micro 4:3 format and the … no wait, that’s the only one, and LightRoom, and Instagram … no wait, that’s bad, and DearSusan !
  • Secondly, and more seriously, not only have some of these very ancient creations lived on, but quite a few of them are actually spearheading fascinating creative niches. If you’ve ever inspected a good recent contact print from a 20 inch negative, you’ll have to concede that 36 megapixels are relatively meaningless. And the pure artistic delight provided by some sx-70 polaroid stirs (see Elizabeth Opalenik’s wonderful “Waiting” for instance) is nothing the digital manipulations found in Flickr’s gazillion new daily posts can replicate. And the FOAM museum of photography in Amsterdam recently hosted a camera obscura display that was absolutely mesmerizing!
    It’s interesting to note how artists take hold of a medium long after it’s technological (hence, marketing) interest is past its prime. A sobering fact, when you see how eagerly we flock to gear rumour websites (guilty as charged).
  • Finally, after viewing so many infographics laden with extremely elaborate graphics supposed to make data display more digestible and convincing (guilty as charged, again),  it’s refreshing that such a disarmingly simple display cabinet of old cameras was able to grab my attention so deeply and inspire me this post. The simpler the image the more room for imagination?

What do you make of it? Am I the only one sucked into this image and wondering teary-eyed about the infinite photographic possibilities?


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