What makes something art? This may be one of the greatest unanswered questions of all time. Of course, many people have tried to answer it in their own way. If it’s beautiful, it must be art. But is it still art if you don’t see any of the beauty it was meant to contain? If it was created from a purely original idea, it must be art. But then what is realism? The concept of art becomes much more vast and complicated once a person starts digging for answers. Many people believe that photography should not be considered art, but why? Photography has power; special powers that can change how people think, what they believe, and how they see the world. It can make celebrities look like gods. It can make a landfill look like the apocalypse. Photographs can create stories, controversies, and decorations to put above your fireplace. However, since the invention of the camera, painters and other artists all over the world have rejected photography as an art form. Yousef Khanfar, author of “The Language of Light”, an article in World Literature Today, once said “Photographers are the Mont Blanc of the art enterprise, for they create with beauty what they see with truth.” So, photography must be art, for a photographer only does with shapes and light what a painter does with paint.
It began with a man named Reiners Gemma Frisius. He was a mathematician who used what’s called camera obscura to observe a solar eclipse, way back in 1544 (Verma). The camera obscura was basically a big box with a lens that worked like a projector. It didn’t save the images like the
modern camera does, but it was able to place an image of something anywhere you wanted it, within
reason. Fourteen years later, it was used as a drawing tool, a sort of giant tracing board, by recommendation of Giovanni Batista della Porta. That became the only way to preserve the images. The very first camera to actually resemble what we know today was invented by Alexander Wolcott. People would be able to take a picture that wouldn’t disappear when their camera wasn’t in use. However, it was only a design, and was never put to use. Joseph Nicéphore Niépce was the first person to take an actual photo with a camera he invented. It used paper coated with silver chloride that darkened when it was exposed to light. But these photos weren’t completely permanent either, so Niépce used a wooden box camera created by Charles and Vincent Chevalier in 1826 to “further improve his [own] mechanism” (Verma). But Niépce did not stop there. He continued to improve photography by collaborating with Louis Daguerre to create what is known as daguerreotype. Images were set in a copper plate that was coated with silver and treated with iodine. The pictures were then developed in a salt and mercury vapour. Jules Janin wrote in L'Artiste about the daguerreotype;
"it is not a picture .. . it is a mirror .. . it is engraving brought to each and all . . . it is the faithful memory of what man has built...