Photographs are wordless history.

~Terri Guillemets
Photograph – Wellington Hockey Club Champions of Owen Sound 1904

A Brief History of Photography

Photographs capture a moment in time. People have captured images with cameras since the 1800s. While early cameras required long exposure time and complicated materials to fix images, the process has changed in vast snaps and exposures since the early daguerreotypes of the 1830s.

There wasn’t just one figure who transformed photography though. By the 1850s, plenty of people were involved in the face of photography; Niépce, Daguerre, Talbot, and Maddox, to name but a few pioneers in the field. They helped to move photography from early chemical baths and metal and glass plates, to lighter and less toxic chemicals and materials. By the 1880s, George Eastman discovered a gel and paper process that led to the first films and the Kodak camera company was born. Their Kodak Brownie led the way to mass produced cameras and the concept that anyone could capture their own photographs.

A click of the shutter, a crank of the film, and you’ve caught forever a significant bit of life.

~Willis Peterson
Old Polaroid camera

With so many people working to advance photography, it is no wonder that the process changed so dramatically. By the 1950s, no longer content with black and white or even colour photos, the era of digital photography began. You know where this went. We went from film cannisters, which needed developing, to polaroids, with instant pictures at the ready, to home printers, which could print your digital images from home.

Today’s Photographs

This simplified timeline brings us to today and the prevalence of smart phones with their ever-improving digital photographs. Now everyone has a camera and the means to share their images with the world with the tap of a button. But the interesting part of that convenience means that printed photographs are now in decline.

Old photographs in an album
Photo albums have become part of a bygone era

Where once, we wanted images of what lay in front of us to remember the moment for posterity, now we take thousands of photographs every day. Sadly, in a round about way, it has served to make that glut of images worthless. Companies who used to develop film have fallen by the wayside. Even businesses who took digital images and printed them are finding business drying up. Why print a photo, when you can look at it on your phone or computer any time you want? The question of when you do that is a moot point.

It seems strange that photographs had such a relatively short history, but perhaps that is a step in the right direction to reduce waste. If we printed off all the photos people take, we would have less valuable resources, not to mention room to store them. But we can’t help but linger over old pictures though. They were a marvel in their time and captured everything from the mundane to the sublime. And we see so many of them in our junk removal business. They were a huge part of history, but as happens to so many things, life changes and so too must we.

Photographs open doors into the past, but they also allow a look into the future

~Sally Mann