Monday, 28 February 2011

"Change Agents"

Part 2 of my lecture notes from Jeff Curto's History of Photography, podcast Spring 2011

Change agents can sometimes be people or it can sometimes be technology. 

In the 1920s, Andre Kertesz was using a new camera and lens, the Ermanox f/1.8. This allowed photographers to capture moments of real life as it happened. The wide aperture allowed for faster shutter speeds as well as shooting in dull light.

The idea of using a roll of 35mm film in a camera came from a perforated film used in a minigraph camera. A man called Oscar Barnack halved the size of the film, designed a camera at the company where he worked, Leitz Camera, to accommodate it and called it a Leica.

Then we get to Henri Cartier-Bresson and the Decisive Moment. 

The Lumiere Brothers came up with Autochrome at the turn of the century, the start of colour photography. In 1934, we see George Eastman making another appearance as a 'change agent' with his Kodachrome. This used subtractive colour using Cyan, Magenta and Yellow. Edward Steichen used Kodachrome in the 1930s. A great example of early colour fashion photography by Horst P Horst:

Back to photography with a social conscious now and the Farm Security Administration (FSA) with Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and Arthur Rothstien. These photographs had a social impact, told a story and were works of art. 

Since the 1950s, 'change agents' have produced advances in technology, faster speeds, greater automation, digital photography and, more recently, video. 

Today, there really is no argument about whether or not photography is seen as a tool of commerce or art. It is both. A more current debate is regarding its commercial survival in the current free for all regarding the sale and use of images.

The next entry will look at fine examples of photographers who mixed ideas, styles, formats and technology.

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