What is photography from 1950 to 2000?


In The Pencil of Nature (1844), William Henry Fox Talbot describes his picture of “The Open Door”—a broom propped up in an open doorway—as a scene “of daily and familiar occurrence.” This picture was created as a means of experimenting with the potential of photography to “awaken a train of thoughts and feelings” (25). A century later, pictures of everyday and even mundane objects and occurrences made up the majority of photographs. In the second half of the twentieth century, instant film (such as Polaroids), disposable cameras, and digital cameras built on the previous successes of the Kodak camera to bring personal snapshots—even colour photographs—into the everyday experiences of increasing numbers of people. Photographs were also integrated into the growing commercial culture of the twentieth century, becoming so pervasive that they were rarely remarked upon. 

The most dramatic change in photographic technology during this period has been the introduction of digital cameras. Digital imaging had been available to professionals since the 1960s, but digital cameras only began to reach the general public in the 1990s. The proliferation of digital images prompted some scholars to ask whether digital imaging represented a complete break from photographic technology or just a new phase in the history of the medium. Stephen Bull discusses this “digital debate,” drawing on various scholars’ work to explain that photographs—whether analogue or digital—have always been subject to manipulation (20-3). 

One benefit of digital imaging has been the digitisation of older photographs, allowing them to be viewed by people around the world. The digital images of historical photographs included in this exhibition provide examples. 

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