1826 – the year in which the world’s earliest surviving camera photograph was taken.
French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, who took that particular photo (View from the Window at Le Gras), is commonly credited as the ‘inventor of photography’. Whilst many different techniques had been trialled previously (some successfully), Niépce is created with developing heliography. Heliography being the process of ‘engraving’ a coating on glass or metal, which hardened in areas exposed to light.
The new Revelations: Experiments in Photography exhibition at the Science Museum explores some of these early, pioneering photography techniques. Even in today’s world of instant photographs and unlimited takes, thanks in no small part to smartphones and affordable, point-and-shoot digital cameras, great photography is a rare discovery. It is an art form that continues to capture fleeting glimpses of our fast-paced world.
But even back in the late 19th century photography was not limited to art; scientists were quick to utilise this newfound medium to record the natural world. Eadweard Muybridge is perhaps the most well-known, motion picture-orientated photographer. His infamous “Sallie Gardner at Gallop” series, captured in 1878, is the first known use of chronophotography – a precursor to what we now call time-lapse.
Hired by Leland Stanford, a racehorse owner who was also the Californian Governor at the time, Muybridge was tasked with proving whether all four hooves of a horse were on or off the ground mid-gallop. Rigging a stretch of grass at Stanford’s farm with tripwire, Muybridge set up a series of cameras. Each one took a photograph as the mare passed through the wire and proved that the horse was indeed airborne at the peak of its gallop.
But works of other prominent photographers are also on display at the exhibition. 19th century images of enlarged single-cell algae (Fox Talbot) and an electrified negative (Alan Archibald Campbell Swinton) are just some of the many early, science-fuelled offerings.
Technology soon advanced and products, such as the Kodak Brownie, made taking photographs more and more affordable. And with that the art form exploded as a very personal medium. Newspapers carried images, the television was invented and awards gave praise to those who were able to capture the ‘perfect picture’. But people also found excitement and comfort in being able to capture moments of their lives to savour forever.
Now into the 21st century, photography has been developed once more (if you will excuse the pun). In fact, it continues to develop. No longer are glass plates or flimsy film involved; the majority of professionals shoot with digital-based technology. Instant results enhance social media channels and ‘selfies’ (along with the inspirationally named ‘selfie stick’) now play a part in everyday life for the vast majority of the population.
But the roots of photography have not been forgotten and awe-inspiring images continue to have their place.
Time-lapse photography very much taps into the two original uses of pictures. If you are constructing an innovative, original or downright breath-taking structure, a time-lapse video can bring it to life for prospective clients, stakeholders or construction workers.
This process takes the beauty of photography and gives it a practical, modern and real time purpose. Much like Muybridge’s foray into chronophotography, time-lapse reveals every last detail of a building going up or event-taking place. But instead of the complicated process Muybridge and the other early pioneers had to go through, images can now be uploaded to a secure live viewer, so progress can be viewed instantly. And at the end of the project a professionally produced time-lapse video can help to market your business in the future.
It has taken just under 200 years for photography to be where it is today – and the benefits are now accessible for everyone. If you would like to find out more about how you can add time-lapse photography to your marketing strategy, please get in touch.