Social Impact of Photography
“You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”
― Ansel Adams
The word “photography” literally translates into “drawing with light.” The “camera obscura” (Latin for “dark room”), an early projector that inspired the advent of photography and the earliest cameras, used an external light source to cast images onto paper. The actual camera obscura could be as large as a small room, using a pin hole through which to filter and reflect light. In doing so, one could capture an image and transfer the likeness onto a flat surface. This method was frequently utilized by some of the premiere artists of the Renaissance, although many were reluctant to admit to its use; not only did many look upon the method as cheating, but some also associated it with sorcery and the occult.
It wasn’t until the early 1800s that these experiments and efforts would be directed into a more pointed focus on photography - a scientific process that experienced just as many physical progressions as cultural. In its inception, techniques involved capturing images through light-sensitive substances, combining the camera obscura with photosensitive paper. This led to the first permanent image, created by Nicephore Niepce in 1826. In 1839, Louis Daguerre’s successful development of the daguerreotype process would become the first publicly announced and commercially recognized photographic practice.
Attempts involving a negative-on-glass process emerged in the mid-1840s, and soon afterward, the wildly popularized carte-de-visite was patented in 1854. The latter would grow into one of the first examples of a playing card; images of prominent figures were traded amongst friends, a practice coined as “Cardomania.”
Cabinet cards, a slightly larger portrait, would gain popularity post-Civil War, and would eventually fade in demand as snapshots and personal photography were eagerly grasped and employed by the general public.
And this was just the beginning.
Culled from our vast archives of autographs, documents, manuscripts and photography, it is with great pleasure that JG Autographs offers such an extensive collection of original CDVs and correspondence. Each piece offers an especially unique glimpse into the world’s first impression of the photograph through the eyes of such famous figures as virtuoso pianist, Franz Liszt; renowned soprano, Marie Tempest; Salvation Army pioneer, Maud Booth; early theater actor, John Drew; social documentary photographer, Jacob Riis; Broadway darling, Adele Astair, and many more.
The beauty of this collection lies within the way it humanizes an artistic movement. Very rarely, if ever, are we permitted such a personal view into both the physical evolution of an invention and the accompanying cultural perspective; this is the gift of such an offering.