Assessment task 1 – draft version

needs polishing and referencing, but if something fails while I do that, here it is for posterity…

Investigate 10 of the 48 supplied inventions/photographers as they relate to their role in the history of photography and the visual communication of ideas.

In each case you need to establish the order of when these inventions/photographers either worked or occurred (earliest first).

You will need to include for each chosen invention/photographer:

  • If a photographer: dates, genre, media, themes, movement, importance of their work and sample images (1-3 images per photographer)
  • Inventions: dates, country, importance, influence (1-2 images)

My selections are:


Electronic Flash


August Sander

Imogen Cunningham

Payl Strand

Rennie Ellis

Bettina Rheims

iPhone camera (I  choose to interpret this as phone cameras over 5mp)

Andre Kertez.

When I made my choices I did not refer to any websites or other publications, I deliberately left off some names that I was familiar with, in an attempt to learn about those that I was not.  Naturally,  there are some names/inventions that I have had prior knowledge of, it is almost impossible not to, so I chose those because an understanding of them truly interested me.

Among the sources I propose to use in my search are

The internet – while this is an obvious choice, it won’t be my only choice, as there are so many beautifully printed books available.  Using the internet, will, however, enable me to source these publications quickly and easily

Photographer websites/blogs – a subsection of the internet, it’s true, but a dedicated source of how inventions and historical figures in photography have inspired modern photographers

Photography publications – there are many dedicated to photography, and several of these run features, not only on the changes being wrought by technology, but also the changes that came before.

CATC Library – my main source for many of the books on historical figures.  I do hope that the lovely librarian doesn’t get sick of my face.. I may have to bribe her with cookies.

I plan to approach this assignment in a linear way, by finding the earliest invention/photographer and then the latest, and slotting the rest in on the resulting timeline.  Hopefully that will enable me to understand how earlier methods and people influenced those who came later, even those who became historical figures themselves.


What is a daguerreotype?


The daguerreotype process is one of the earliest photographic processes, invented by the Frenchman Louis Daguerre and announced to the world in August 1839. A daguerreotype consists of a silvered copper plate, which bears the image, and a housing to protect the plate.The image in a daguerreotype is in negative, but it can be viewed as a positive when the reflective surface reflects something dark. The details in a daguerreotype can be very clear and sharp. The image itself consists of higher or lower densities of microscopic silver and mercury particles.

Daguerre could not find private investors for this new technique, so, withholding specifics, he approached the French Acadmy of Sciences in 1839.  Not long after, he gifted the French government with permission to publish the process in return for a lifetime pension.  However, photographers in England had to pay a licence fee, as he patented the process there..

Daguerreotypes were incredibly popular world wide, and many of the early images of historical figures were created with this method, which was also used by the early photojournalists in the American Civil War.  One of the features of  scenes captured with this method, was the lack of people or other moving objects, as the exposure was still quite lengthy and thus they became ‘invisible.

Plate style photographic processes dominated astronomical photography until quite late in the 20th century, although they were boosted by colour filters, due to their crisp contrast and fine detail.

Daguerre died of a heart attack on July 10, 1851, just outside of Paris, but he undeniably left his mark not just on photography, but the world at large. His name is among 72 inscribed on the Eiffel Tower.

Camera obscurae picture sourced from

Image of Louis Daguerre and Daguerreotype sourced from

Further info  sourced from


Niepce was born in Chalon‐sur‐Saône, March 7, 1765,  and for a while he was Administrator of Nice.. but in 1801 he devoted his life to research, with his passions being physics and chemistry, and in  1814, Niépce began experimenting with ways to record light, and managed to transfer an image to paper two years later via a camera obscura.

By 1822, he had figured out how to make such an image permanent by capturing it on a flat sheet of polished tin coated with bitumen. One of the oldest surviving photographs dates back to 1825, when Niépce captured the black-and-white image of an engraving of a boy pulling a horse. But this method required a full eight hours of exposure. His later image of the view from his attic window, another 8 hour exposure, is probably his most famous, and is currently held in the University of Texas.

Niepce collaborated with Daguerre several times on photography related projects, and is also credited, along with his brother of the invention of the internal combustion engine.

Niepce died in his home town, July 5, 1833, quite suddenly.

‘Joseph Nicéphore Niepce (1765–1833)’ 2011, Hutchinson’s Biography Database, p. 1, Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre, EBSCOhost, viewed 1 November 2013.


August Sander (17 November 1876 – 20 April 1964

Sander started his photographic journey as an assistant in a studio during his military service, he continued with it after his discharge, and by 1904 had opened his own studio in Linz, Austria.  In 1909, he began photographing rural farmers near his new studio in Cologne, and soon afterwards abandoned studio photography in favour of finding subjects on his travels by bycicle through the countryside. These images were the beginning of Sander’s best known project “Man of the twentieth Century”

Many of these portraits were later banned by the Nazi party because subjects did not conform to the Aryan ideal, and there is a school of thought that says many of these diverse images of coloured people paired with Caucasians was a political statement on the part of the photographer, however, after 1934, he increasingly photographed nature scenes and architecture, before returning to his project after the war, and continuing it well into the 1950’s.

Sander’s portraits are considered strictly documentary, and while not an accurate demographic representation of the makeup of his country, they are considered a highly accurate reflection of their time.

Michael Collins, Record Pictures (Thomas Telford Publishing, 2004), p. 1842

Read more:

Tubb, K 2013, ‘Face to Face? An Ethical Encounter with Germany’s Dark Strangers in August Sander’s People of the Twentieth Century’, Tate Papers, 19, p. 4, Art & Architecture Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 1 November 2013.


Imogen Cunningham (April 12, 1883 – June 24, 1976)

Imogen pursued photography with a passion her entire life.  Best known for her modernist images taken pre 1940, she was also a figurehead in several other trends and developments.

With a portfolio that ran the extremes of artistic nudes and studies of local plants, her body of work is considered bold and contemporary.  Many iconic portraits of hollywood’s leading men were taken by Imogen, who went against all the customs of the time by being a working, married mother.

Despite making much use of soft focus early in her career, in 1932, Imogen, along with Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Willard Van Dyke, and several others founded Group f/64, to photograph in a hard edged style, the real world around them during the great depression.


CLTH, 9.5 X 11.75 IN. / 262 PGS / 220 DUOTONE.

PUB DATE 1/31/2013


ISBN 9781938922060 TRADE
LIST PRICE: $65.00 CDN $65.00


Meltzer, M 1979, ‘Imogen Cunningham (Book Review)’, Library Journal, 104, 21, p. 2563, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost, viewed 3 November 2013.


Paul Strand (October 16, 1890 – March 31, 1976

One of the first of the American Modernist photographers, Paul explored the expressive side of this movement, encouraged by his first teacher, Lewis Hine. He was exhibited and published at quite a young age, not long after returning from WWI, where he served as a member of the medical corps.

Strand also worked as a motion picture cameraman in the 1920’s, and in the great depression he was quite active politically, with quite left wing views. Most of his photography in this period was done on location at various urban sites, photographed with large format 8×10 cameras with contact prints on platinum paper, these images are acknowledge among historians of the art as seminal in the evolution of the New Objectivity, with form and feeling both intense and inseparable from each other.

After time spent curating at museums in Mexico, he travelled to the Soviet Union, and on his return, again began making socially significant films, and went on to form the Photo League in New York in 1936, but after being questioned  and blacklisted by  the committe for un-American activities, he left the United States in 1950 and spent the remainder of his life in France.  He was politically active in his work for most of his life


‘Paul Strand’ 2013, Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6Th Edition, p. 1, Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre, EBSCOhost, viewed 11 November 2013.



André Kertész was born on July 2, 1894 in Hungary and died there in 1985

Kertesz had an extensive career covering more than seven decades, he is considered the pioneering father of the street photography genre, along with photojournalism, with even the much more famous Henri Cartier- Bresson acknowledging his impact.

Like many of his contemporaries, his portfolio consisted of two extremes, at one end photo essays commissioned by popular magazines, and at the other end, his street photography, where images were often quite distorted and surreal.  The main body of his work lies somewhere between the modernist essay and the surreal movement.

Kertesz was well known for modifying his equipment, early on in his career, frustrated by the lack of portability of his 8×10 camera, he went to a glass cutter and had the plates cut into quarters, he marvelled that not only did this reduce the size of his camera to less than 6cm square, but also that it gave him 48 exposures for the cost of 12.


Banks, T 2013, ‘André Kertész: Truth and Distortion in photography’, Design Week (Online Edition), p. 1, Business Source Corporate Plus, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.





Reynolds Mark “Rennie” Ellis (11 November 1940 – 19 August 2003)

Rennie Ellis was an Australian photographer who was well known on the ‘party scene’ in the 1970’s and 1980’s, capturing the emergence of the Australian party identity.  His subjects were the epitome of popular culture and our hedonistic embrace of it.

His images are raw, gritty and very much capture life in the fast lane of sex, drugs and rock and roll of the time.

Ellis had a background in advertising, and travelled the world as a merchant seaman before becoming a freelance photographer.  His skills were all self taught on that voyage.

He is considered one of the greatest Australian photographers of the 20th century by many of his peers and his images are still shown in exhibitions and held in permanent galleries all over Australia, with permanent collections being held in every major art gallery in the country.


Penny, W 2013, ‘Mirror on a societyreinventing itself’, Age, The (Melbourne), 28 August, Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Peta, D 2013, ‘Long-lost manuscript puts lensman in focus’, Sydney Morning Herald, The, 6 September, Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre, EBSCOhost, viewed 9 November 2013.





Electronic Flash – 1931


Henry Edgerton is credited with the invention of the first electronic flash or strobing light in 1931, among his many other inventions,  Previous to this, flash light was created by the use of ‘flash powder’, an actual explosive blend that consisted of a mix  of magnesium powder, potassium chlorate and antimony sulphide (more commonly known these days as kohl powder and used in eye cosmetics), and most camera companies had a proprietary blend offered for sale.  Obviously this powder was inherently dangerous, messy and unpleasant to use, not only for the photographer, but also for his subjects.

Concurrent with flash powder, a photographer could also choose to use a magnesium flash bulb , which dated back to 1900, but wasn’t patented until 1925, and could only be used 12 times before running out of magnesium ribbon.

Early electronic flashes were quite expensive, and used only by professional photographers because of this, however, invention of the small capless bulb in 1955 made the cost much more accessible to most amateur photographers.  Flash powder and magnesium bulbs persisted well into the 1950’s due to the cost factor.

These factors all combined to ensure that flash guns were all off camera, and connected by a synchronising cord or the now familiar hot shoe adaptor.  However, in 1964, Voigtlander released a camera with an integrated electronic flash unit that used an in body battery, and this popularised flash photography for the masses.

Nowadays, nearly every camera has an inbuilt flash, usually lit by LED, with only professional cameras having electronic  separate flash units that can be used on or off the camera.  Many of these units have variable power output, zoom capabilities, the ability to meter the amount of light needed based on the camera’s meter (through the lens system or TTL) and so much more than anyone imagined when they lit a touchpaper to a pile of flash powder.–photo-4249

Book To photograph darkness  ISBN: 978-0-86299-649-9



Bettina Rheims (born December 18, 1952

Rheims is a French born photographer who started her professional life as a model and journalist, converting to full time photography in 1980.  She has a stylised look, capturing mainly fashion and erotic images with a strong leaning towards incredibly beautiful women in both colour and black and white.

Rheims is credited with being a pioneer of the current opulent fashion look, her consciously theatrical images and exploration of androgyny in fashion have become her trademark, as well as an industry standard.

Not satisfied with creating imagery for most of the haute couture fashion houses of her native France, she has also published several books of images taken on trips all around the world, taking images of people that she finds on the street, as opposed to many of the famous supermodels that she has photographed before.

Miller, F 1992, ‘PHOTOGRAPHS BY BETTINA RHEIMS’, Print Collector’s Newsletter, 22, 6, pp. 196-198, Art & Architecture Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 9 November 2013.




Camera Phone – 2000

Oh gosh.. Camera phones.. love them or hate them, they are pretty much here to stay, and how they have taken over in such a short time is nothing short of a marketing win.

The very first mobile phone with a camera was released in South Korea only by Samsung, and wasn’t integrated into the phone, it merely shared the same body.. it’s resolution was .35 of a megapixel.. that’s right ONE percent of what some pro dslr bodies are capable of today.  Later that year, Sharp released a .11 megapixel camera integrated into its latest body, so that images taken could also be transmitted electronically directly from the phone.

For two whole years, the west resisted this new fad, until, finally, in 2002, Sanyo released a camera phone that not only had .3 megapixel resolution, but also had some editing capabilities, with white balance, zoom and three user controlled tones.  Nokia followed with their own version later the same year, and by the end of 2004, two thirds of all phones sold had integrated cameras, with the average resolution being two megapixels.

Then came the iPhone – 2007, the year we embraced swipe technology.  No more pressing tiny buttons and getting it wrong. A new world opened up, because this phone could be loaded with custom features normally found on a PC, Applets, or Apps, meant that developers could create programs that would bolster the function of the phone camera, allow advanced editing, share immediately over the internet what you had for lunch (who’s brilliant idea was that??  Sarcasm off)

Camera manufacturers started to sit up and take notice, lenses that would work well on these tiny sensors were created, with Nokia partnering with the Carl Zeiss company. LED flashes were added, zoom capabilities, the megapixel count rose and rose, and currently sits at a staggering 41 megapixels in the Lumia.  Video capability, more and more editing apps, direct one click linking to every available social media site (who probably wouldnt’ really exist with the smart phone and it’s camera). Tutorials, books, clubs and groups, dedicated purely to the art of phone photography. Where will it end??


About Rattimoth

Middle aged with freckles, the rest is subject to change without notice.
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1 Response to Assessment task 1 – draft version

  1. Pingback: Photography inspiration Imogen Cunningham | Greg Urbano

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