We're not really going to go down the history highway of street photography. No. However, I do believe it is really important to shed light and acknowledge a few momentous facts along the photographic timeline... which only leads us down the street on how we got to where we are today. Let's begin...
- Street photography is a tradition that dates back to the invention of photography. The first photographs ever taken were made in the streets. The first known photograph of people was captured by Louis Daguerre in 1838. Commercially photography would be introduced in 1839, so essentially the start of photography was the start of street photography.
- Roger Fenton rose to fame in England during the “golden age” of photography in the 1850s. Originally recognized for his architecture and landscape photography, Fenton was dispatched to cover the Crimean War in 1855, thus becoming the world’s first war photographer.
- In July 1888 Eastman's Kodak camera went to market with the slogan "You press the button, we do the rest". Everybody could have a camera, cheap.
- The grandfather of 35mm would change everything. 35mm film was already in regular use for motion pictures in 1913 when the first 35mm film Leica prototypes were being conceived by Oskar Barnack at Ernst Leitz Optische Werke in Wetzlar. Barnack built the Leica as a small camera that produced a small negative. By 1924 they were a huge hit. When the Leica II came along in 1932, it had a built in rangefinder coupled to the lens focusing mechanism. Think about it, over 100 years of 35mm.
- American physicist Dr. Edwin Land invented a one-step process for developing and printing photos by applying the principle of diffusion transfer, which reproduces the image captured by the camera’s lens onto a photosensitive surface serving as both film and photo. Born in 1947 was Polariod's transformative instant camera. A long way away from Eastman's Brownie camera. It too made photography available to everybody, cheap.
- To get us up to speed on how we got here today, we must look to Henri Cartier-Bresson, often called the "father" of Street Photography. Cartier-Bresson whose poetic style focused on the actions of people in time and place. He was responsible in the 1950s for the idea of taking a picture at what he termed the "decisive moment", "when form and content, vision and composition merged into a transcendent whole". The idea of the decisive moment inspired successive generations of street photographers to make candid photographs in public places. Visit Wiki for more on Cartier-Bresson.
- In 1947 Henri Cartier-Bresson formed the world's most prestigious photographic agency with fellow photographers Robert Capa, George Rodger and David "Chim" Seymour. Magnum to this day continues to emphasize the delicate balance of documentary, photo-journalism and art, where the artist is encouraged to express his work through this most fantastic technological medium art-form.
- In 1975 Steven Sasson, an engineer at Eastman Kodak, invented and built the first electronic camera. Kodak would go on to release its first commercial digital SLR in 1991. In 2012 Steven Sasson became a National Medal of Technology and Innovation recipient.
So there you have it. A few of the more significant timelines in photography, and much of it directly affecting the past, present and future of street photography. In future blog posts we hope to cover more about how the masters and trailblazers of street photography used these advancing technologies to their best advantage. How they changed photojournalism, humanist and social (street) photography. The impact that their work had then which continues to have influence on the street photographers of today.
~Alex Zafer, your friendly neighbourhood candid street photographer ;-)