What is photography from 1900 to 1950?

Postal Souvenirs

By the opening years of the twentieth century, photographic processes were further streamlined and simplified. Lightweight celluloid film, which could be stored in rolls, was replacing bulky and fragile glass plate negatives. The lighter weight of the new film combined with the faster exposure times of the gelatin process meant that many photographers were now discarding the tripod in favour of hand-held cameras and snapshot photography

The Kodak camera, first launched in 1888, took advantage of these developments and helped popularize a new form of amateur photography that turned the camera into a commonplace accessory. Other technologies introduced in this period were automatic shutters, viewfinders, and improved enlarging equipment. 

At the same time, photographs circulated in larger numbers than ever before due to the halftone process and other photomechanical processes such as photogravure. Photographs were ubiquitous in the period’s visual culture, appearing in picture magazines, as postcards, and as advertisements. Photography’s indexical nature—its ability to capture the thing "that-has-been" (Barthes 77)—continued to play a central role in the ways photography was used. However, as we will see, photographs continued to be manipulated in creative ways as photographers and publishers sought ways to bypass the limitations of the medium. 

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