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An Intimate View of MLK Through the Lens of a Friend

One evening in 1958, photographer Flip Schulke was covering a rally at a Black Baptist church in Miami where Dr. Schulke had spent the past few years documenting the Civil Rights Movement for publications like Life, Time, Newsweek, Jet and more

The Pictures that Defined World War II

Getting the perfect shot in wartime is not only about weapons. With over 30 countries involved in World War II and the loss of over 50 million lives, war photography captured the destruction and victories of the deadliest war in history. Lead by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, over one more

How Photography Defined the Great Depression

During the 1930s, America went through one of its greatest challenges: the Great Depression. President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to relieve the dire economic situation with his New Deal programs. To justify the need for those projects, the government employed photographers more

These Appalling Images Exposed Child Labor in America

The Industrial Revolution brought not only new job opportunities but new laborers to the workforce: children. By 1900, 18 percent of all American workers were under the age of 16. For employers of the era, children were seen as appealing workers since they could be hired for more

How Photos Became a Weapon in Stalin’s Great Purge

Now you see him—now you don’t. Compare a photo taken in the 1930s of five Communist Party officials in the USSR and you’ll see Avel Enukidze, photographed next to Soviet premier Vyacheslav Molotov and others. But during Josef Stalin’s Great Purge, the onetime member of the more

A Visual History of Iconic Black Hairstyles

For centuries black communities around the world have created hairstyles that are uniquely their own. These hairstyles span all the way back to the ancient world and continue to weave their way through the social, political and cultural conversations surrounding black identity more

More People Died in the 1918 Flu Pandemic Than in WWI

The Past in Color features the work of colorist Marina Amaral, bringing to life black and white photos with color applied digitally. Blue lips. Blackened skin. Blood leaking from noses and mouths. Coughing fits so intense they ripped muscles. Crippling headaches and body pains more

Artists of the New Deal

The New Deal was one of President Roosevelt’s efforts to end the Great Depression. Art projects were a major part of this series of federal relief programs, like the Public Works of Art Project, the Treasury Section of Painting and Sculpture and the Treasury Relief Art Project. more

8 Crucial Innovations in the Invention of Photography

1. Camera Obscura: 5th century B.C. Long before there was the camera, there was the camera obscura. Literally translated as “dark chamber,” these devices consisted of darkened rooms or enclosed boxes with a tiny opening on one side. When sunlight passed through this “pinhole” and more

The Fascinating Stories Behind 8 Famous Photos

1. “Migrant Mother,” 1936, California In 1936, photographer Dorothea Lange shot this image of a destitute woman, 32-year-old Florence Owens, with an infant and two other of her seven children at a pea-pickers camp in Nipomo, California. Lange took the photo, which came to be more

Merging Technology with Art

In the late 1960s, Polaroid recruited the world&rsquos best-known artists&mdashAnsel Adams, David Hockney, and Andy Warhol&mdashto test its products. It provided them with free film and studio space and invited them to snap photos of whatever they wanted, as long as they returned the finished prints to the Collections Committee. The idea was also brought to Europe, where cameras and film were given to leading photographers such as David Bailey, Sarah Moon, and Helmut Newton. These works became the basis for the International Polaroid Collection. Through the 1970s and 1980s, the collection grew as more and more artists applied for camera and film grants. The epic collection was later displayed as The Polaroid Project in 2018 at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg in Hamburg, Germany.

History Of Photography Timeline: A Preview

Before Photography Invented

Early Experiments

Humans are very curious and creative. And that is why we are constantly evolving. We can never rest. Probably that is a reason why photography has reached its zenith in just two centuries since the modern discoveries. Invented in the 19th century (the 1830s), this scientific art came to the limelight after ten years. But the idea was around us since 400 BC when the Chinese philosopher and inventor Mozi coined the camera obscura as the ‘hidden treasure’. He then explained that the image in a camera looks inverted because light travels in a linear manner.

For your information, before the invention of the camera or creation of photography, people knew how the entire thing works! They didn’t know how to process the images and how to convert those black and white negatives into color photographs, but they learned to process images at walls or pieces of paper.

Though there was no camera by the time we are talking about, there was an ancient gadget people use to create something like printed photographs. The name of the gadget is called The Obscura.

While Aristotle explained camera obscura in 300 BC, Abd el-Kamir the Arabian alchemist discovered the photosensitive emulsion despite having no idea of camera obscura.

The Dwan of Photography

Before we go further with Obscura let’s go bit fast forward reach to the 16th century when an Italian scientist Giambattista Della Porta experimented and explained in detail the use of camera obscura with a lens. As the process was completely manual, the images created by most artists differ in quality depending on their drawing skills.

Alike the primitive camera, magic lanterns, and early projectors also gained popularity during this time. They use the same optical principles to project the images but the medium were glass slides and walls.

Here, it is important to mention the contribution of German anatomist Johann Heinrich Schulze. He actually gave a successful demonstration of silver salt darkening, the phenomenon discovered in 100 BC. This experiment in 1727 with the primitive camera laid the foundation of modern photography technology. However, the world had waited for another century to have a permanent image.

Meanwhile, the search for a mechanical process to produce images was continued in various parts of the world.

The First Photograph

While we will be discussing camera obscura in detail in the next section, you must have figured out that this not-so-technical box has always been the base of every experiment.

Same is the case with the first recorded photograph the journey of which was started with an amateur French inventor Joseph Nicephore Niepce. To create heliographs he devised a method where an engraving was oiled to make it transparent. Niepce then placed it on a plate coated with a light-sensitive solution of bitumen and lavender oil. Exposing the setup to sunlight for several hours resulted in an accurate copy of the engraving.

Niepce continued his experiments of sun drawing or heliography onto stone, glass, zinc plates and finally pewter plates in 1826. This determined inventor finally produced the first successful photograph of nature by fitting a pewter plate in camera obscura and exposing it to sunlight for almost eight hours. This became the first recorded photo in history that did not fade quickly. Although his images were underexposed and too weak to be etched, his experiments proved extremely helpful for future progress.

When was photography invented?

We can say 1826 AD. Right? May be Yes. But, the process was on going.

Obscura- The Ancient Camera

Obscura is a Latin word that means Darkroom. It used at the ages of 13-14 th centuries. In history, there was a manuscript developed by Arabian scholar Hassan IBN Hassan and we got to know how it works.

How Obscura Works?

Obscura or Camera Obscura is a dark space in such a shape that it had a hole in the wall of the box at one of the sides. The hole should be small enough for maintaining the proposition of light that came up into it.

The light comes through the tiny hole and it created an image of the surface it meets( as an example- the wall of the box). The image mirrored and tends to be upside down. So the image inverted. But still, it was able to capture the colors of any object that are in front of it. And eventually, from that core concept, modern cameras are created.

In fact, a matter of wonder is, still joe the same principle is capture images of anybody. But the equipment that is used in catching the light and letting light come through, is way smarter. However, the invention Obscura considered to be an early milestone in the evolution of photography.

Evolution of Pre-Camera Photography

The way photography was developing in the camera history timeline, define to be a killer form of fine arts and thus, people of all ages and centuries played an important role in the evolution of photography. Befoe inventing the camera, in the ages of Renaissance, photography principles widely used by artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo, and so many others.

In fact one of the Italian scholars of that age named Giovanni Battista Della Portacentury explained in one of his books that, how the concept of Camera Obscura make painting easier. Using these principles, he was able to project the images of people outside of the Obscura on a wall. In this case, the Obscura was like a big room although.

But this event has taken the art into a new dimension. Also, there is no doubt that the Obscura, was the early prototype of the modern camera.

The Invention of Camera

Photography had become familiar as a form of art at the 1840s. Before that, almost 10 years ago, at the 1830s, photography invented. Since then, photography has become the most growing hobby of people worldwide and it becomes a multi-billion dollar industry. But all of the journeys started back when the camera invented.

The First Photographic Camera

As the history says, the very first photograph that taken using the camera taken at 1825 by a French Inventor named as Joseph Niepce. It represented a view from the window at the city- Le Gras. The merit in the picture was that this was the first photograph that was able to both be taken and preserved. Though the exposure was almost 8 hours and because of this, the quality was nothing compared to modern photographs.

But still, from that event, the age of digital photography began. Because, before this historic event, people somehow knew how to project pictures of anything into a board, but there was no technique to preserve the light. Joseph came up to be the first person to introduce techniques of storing photographs permanently in the history of photographs.

Firstly, he used a petroleum derivative called Bitumen of Judea as storage. It worked quite like the modern silver negatives. Bitumen of Judea hardened according to the intensity of light exposure that falls onto it. Afterward, the unhardened material washed away to get the black and white picture.

A Glance At Evolution of Camera Technology

Here is a list of some discrete facts that you may find interesting. All of these are top picks from the entire timeline of photography- since the Greek and Chinese evolution.

  • The Ancient Camera: The ancient Greeks and Chinese use a mechanical device named Camera Obscura (described above) that could project an image of an object on a screen. This invention played a big role in the evolution of photography.
  • Developing Practical Cameras: Many designs had been proposed on the real working camera since the 1800s. But none of those couldn’t come to be practically efficient until the late 1800s.

The Evolution of the Camera

Afterward, cameras that can work and store images on a screen, developed.

  • The Kodak Camera: The Kodak Camera, which was one of the earliest camera models, developed by George Eastman at 1888 and released for sale.

The name is remembered because it successfully introduced the usage of films on camera. Although, it was a pretty simple design along with fixed shutter speed and fixed focal length.

  • Lucia- The First Compact Camera:
  • At the year of 1913, Oskar Barnack, a German optical engineer, presented a model prototype of compact camera called Lucia. It contained a 35mm lens and later on, it put into mass production in the year of 1925.
  • Reflex Camera: Reflex cameras designed and developed massively at the years of the 1920s and 1930s.
  • First SLR(Single Lens Reflex) Camera: The concept of seeing the image before capturing it introduced by SLR(Single Lens Reflex) cameras. It was in the year around the 1930s. To visualize the image that will be captured, the designer used a prism and afterward it turned to be the key concept of modern DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras.
  • Polaroid Camera: Polaroid cameras was an evolution of the industry because, for the first time in photography technology, it allows the cameraman to take and print the pictures instantly. A special chemical process used then in Polaroid cameras to print the image captures within almost one minute.

Although, the popularity of these models took off when another model of cameras,named as Polaroid Model 20 Swinger introduced at 1965. This version of Polaroid camera made history by being one of the most selling cameras of all time.

  • Disposable Cameras The next addition of camera technology bumped up with disposable cameras. Although the concept of disposable cameras was around during 1949, it actually showed up in the 1990s.

By then, the Kodak model cameras gained much popularity. Kodak cameras were so much popular because of their cheap rate and they perfect for event-based photo sessions like birthdays, weddings, etc.

Cameras With Digital Image Sensors: A real revolution in history was the introduction of digital image sensors in the cameras.

This tech-first promoted and invented by Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith at the year of 1969. In fact, because of the significant role of their invention, the scientist’s pair awarded the Nobel prize recently (2009).

First Commercial DSLR(Digital Single Lens Reflex) Camera: The most popular digital camera of the current age, named DSLR first introduced commercially by Kodak at the year of 1991.

Afterward, with a little evolution to the technology, photos and videos developed to be stored in SD memory cards as JPEG format.

Modern DSLR Cameras With a lot of improvements of DSLR cameras, it had turned into the magical device to take pictures of much higher resolution and pixels.

The popularity of digital cameras started to explode at around the 2000s as photography become so smarter and the photography costs decreased. Modern technology with digital cameras is being improved day by day with the introduction of electric viewfinders and touch-pads.

Brief History Of Photography: Infographic

Photography History Timeline

Names To Remember in Photography History

The invention of photography is considered to be a scientific achievement and a great addition to the industrial world. Apart from the scientific and business perspective, it contains a great art value that represents day to day life in a frame. The artistic concept of photography was first introduced by this man named Alfred Stieglitz.

Alfred Stieglitz

An American photographer and modern art promoter, he was instrumental in making photography an accepted art form. He is also known for his well-known art galleries where he worked to introduce many Avant-grade European artists to the USA. Alfred stressed that, apart from the painters, photographers are also and should be considered as artists.

Alfred Stieglitz (Source: )
Contribution of Alfred Stieglitz

The greatest contribution of Alfred into the history of the digital camera is the representation of day to day life into a still frame. Besides photography, Alfred, interested in Avant-garde. He owned a few famous art galleries in New York and through these, he introduced some great event-grade artists to the nation.

Alfred pointed out that, apart from the painters, the world considered photographers as artists. He demonstrated that the quality of photographs not only depends on the content of the picture only. It also depends on the conceptual representation of the photographer himself.

The photographer himself can manipulate a lot with the contents present in from the lens. Eventually, due to his restless efforts, photographs of different exhibitions started to be in judgment by photographers apart from artists.

Felix Nadar

Felix Nadar is a French caricaturist and journalist in his early life. Later when the era of photography started on, become a photographer. He is especially remembered for contributing an important factor into photography- using artificial lights in photography. An interesting fact is, Nadar was a friend of famous fiction writer Joules Verne, and thus two friends were inspired by each other.

Felix Nadar (source:
Contribution of Felix Nadar

Apart from the successful application of artificial light, Nadar was also famous for another great concept. Portrait photography, which is one of the most populated sectors of the modern photographic industry- was firstly introduced by Nadar. By that time, Nadar was known as close friends of many famous personalities like Joule Verne, peter Kropotkin, Alexander Dumas and George Sands.

Nadar introduced portrait photography with these sorts of famous personalities, and eventually, the concept of portrait photography spread out like wildfire.

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce

Who invented photography? We can say the name “Joseph Nicéphore Niépce”.

Considered as one of the fathers of photography, this French inventor is considered as a pioneer in the field.

He achieved the first successful fixation of an image produced with one camera obscura.

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (source: )
Contribution of Joseph Nicéphore Niépce
  • Niépce is remembered for developing a technique called ‘Heliography’ meaning ‘Sun Drawing’
  • He developed the first photograph
  • Developed a technique used to create the world’s oldest surviving product of a photographic procedure,
  • Know to create a print made from the photoengraved printing plate.
  • In late years, he even used a primitive camera to develop the oldest surviving photo of a real-world scene.

Henry Cartier-Bresson

Photojournalism is one of the most studied subjects in the world of media and fine arts. But many of us don’t know who is the actual behind the scene person is. Henry Cartier, A French photographer was the first person to bring photojournalism into daylight. Personally, he has gathered photographic experience from around the globe.

Contribution of Henry Cartier-Bresson into the History of Photography

We are thankful to Henry for many reasons. He is the first person to tell the world that photography can be a solution to fix the eternity. When his first exhibition on portrait photographs took place at NY, the portrait pictures caught the attention of the world because being captured with a new dimension. Since then, people had been trying different versions of portrait photography.

Evolution of Photo Development Technology

Photographers use cameras to capture lights that come from the object that we photograph. But after clicking a photo on the camera, the next task is to develop and print the photo on paper. A lot of consequences had been noticed in this photo development technology. From the early age of black and white photo printing to the history of color photography- it has been an enormous journey.

Here in this section, we will overlook at the evolution of the photography history timeline that we use to develop the photos after taking them.

Negative to Positive Process

Technologies of printing positive photos from negatives invented many years after the first photographs taken. The creation and invention of negative prints of photos from where multiple positive photos, captured by Henry Fox Talbot who was an English botanist and also a mathematician of contemporary Daguerre.

Talbot used a silver and salt solution to make it sensitive to light exposure and intensity. After putting the chemical on a paper, he exposed the paper to light. The background became black and the subject line subdivided into many shades of gray.

From the negative image, Talbot made several contact points that reversed the lights and intensities to create an original and detailed picture. In 1841, he successfully developed a model of negative to positive image printing and thus he called it


After Calotype, there was another technology which appeared in photography history. Though the patent was taken in 1856, the evolution took place after Calotype had already familiar. There was another medium of tin or iron based materials.

A layer of light-sensitive material provided on the metal sheet and yield the image based on the light intensity and exposure. Unless the material type, the working process was almost same like Calotype. So, both of these technologies were competitors of each other back then.

Wet Plate Negatives

In 1851, an English Sculptor Frederick Scoff Archer introduced another sort of technology for fast and accurate photo development. It called wet plate technology. There in this process, a viscous solution of collodion was used along with coated glass. Silver salts used as the light-sensitive material.

The model develops a perfect negative because it was glass instead of paper. From this invention, photographic development had been taken to the advanced level as the light-sensitive metal could be coated on glass sheets instead of papers. However, there were several disadvantages of the wet plate negatives.

They had to be developed so quickly so that the image can be printed before the emulsion dried. So, in the field, photographers had to carry a portable darkroom with them.

Dry Plate Negatives (With Hand Held Cameras)

In the year of 1879, the invention of the dry plate has revolutionized the photographic concept and decreased the cost to a minimum. In fact, it was a glass plate along with gelatin emulsion.

Dry plates one can store for a particular period of time. So after the invention of dry plates, photographers didn’t need to carry the portable darkroom anymore. Hiring technicians to develop images instead of working in person was also a common trend of photographers of this age. In the dry chemical process, it absorbed the light so quickly. So the practice of carrying hand-held cameras started in this age. Overall, the invention of the dry plate was a significant milestone in modern photography.

Flexible Roll Film

Unlike the dry plate and wet plate films, a new version of photographic films introduced in 1889. The major benefit of those films as they were flexible and can roll up. The design implemented by considering the benefit that, it can hold more than 100 images at a time in a very tiny film slot in the camera. With this evolution, allotting a special place for camera films in the camera stopped and films were able to embed into the camera. The designer of this model was George East man. Cellulose nitrate was the chemical that was used in it. The age of box the camera began from this invention.

Color Photographs – History of Color Photography

At the end of the black and white era, color photography was the next step. In was in early 1940s when commercially viable films that can contain multiple colors on it started. An exception was Coda chrome, which launched earlier in 1935. A technology of dye-coupled color was the chemical energy that photographers used in it. Eventually, an apparent color image got produced from this kind of camera. And not to mention that modern photography started with the concept of color photography.

Finally, we are up to the latest era of photography, which we know as digital photography.

The storyline began when a team by Russell A, Kirsch developed a technology, an advanced version of the binary digital version of the existing technology. A device called the wire photo drum scanner was there to convert the alphanumeric characters, photographs, diagrams, etc into binary signals for computers. The first digital photograph was of the infant son of Kirsch himself. The image resolution was 176 x 176 pixels and the pixel density was only one byte per pixel.

The coining of the word ‘photography’

Have you ever wondered why we refer to the capturing of images as photography? Sir John Herschel originally coined the word ‘photography’ in 1839, basing the term on Greek words including phōtós (meaning “light”) and graphê, (meaning “drawing, writing”), together meaning “drawing with light”. Herschel was an English polymath, mathematician, astronomer, chemist, inventor, and experimental photographer himself. He also conducted well-respected and important botanical work.

When Was The First Photograph Taken?

In 1827, a gentleman by the name of Joseph Nicéphore Niépce created the first picture ever taken that did not quickly fade like others before, known as The Niépce Heliograph (pictured to the right). His success led to rapid progressions in photography.

In the mid to late 1800’s, wet plates, daguerreotypes, and emulsion plates were introduced. Photographers experimented with different techniques and chemicals with each type of emulsion. Those three emulsions were instrumental in the progression and development of modern photography as we know it today.


Louis Daguerre collaborated with Niépce after his experiment to create the daguerreotype, a type of modern film. They took a copper plate coated with silver and exposed it to an iodine vapor before exposing it to light. The early daguerreotypes had to be exposed to light for up to fifteen minutes in order to create an image on the plate.

In the late 1850’s, the daguerreotype was replaced with the emulsion plate.

Emulsion Plates

Emulsion plates, also known as wet plates, were better suited for portrait photography, which was pretty popular during this time. For starters, they were more affordable than daguerreotypes and they only required two to three seconds of exposure time. Rather than a single coating on the plate, the Collodion process was used. It was also during this time that bellows were added to cameras to help get better focus.

Ambrotypes were a type of wet plates that used glass plates rather than copper.

Tintypes were a type of wet plate that used tin plates. They had to be developed fairly quickly so photographers had to be prepared. However, they were much more sensitive to light.

A lot of the images taken during the Civil War were taken on wet plates.

Dry Plates

Richard Maddox invented dry gelatin plates in the late 1870’s. Rather than being made as needed, dry plates could be stored. They were smaller and could be handheld. The mechanical shutter was eventually created as explore times got faster with each advancement.


In the 1880’s, George Eastman started a company called Kodak. He created small box camera with no focusing adjustments and a single lens. It consisted of a roll of film that he could take back and develop 100 exposures from in a dark room. This meant the general public could purchase them, take their images, then return to the store to be developed. These were much more affordable, meaning cameras weren’t just for professional photographers any more.

Instant Cameras

The Model 95 was the first instant camera. The camera was capable of doing it’s on “in-camera” developing. By the mid 1960’s Polaroid had many different models of instant cameras on the market. In 2016, Polaroid stopped production of instant cameras.

SLR And Point and Shoots

From the 1950’s on, many SLR type cameras and point and shoots were created. With each advancement came greater camera control when it came to settings and interchangeable lenses. Still today, cameras are becoming more and more advanced with many brands and models to choose from for both professional photographers and the general public.

Dr. Edward Land, the Polaroid, and the Age of Instant Photography

Edward Land revolutionized the industry with the invention of the Polaroid in 1948. The new device utilized cutting-edge technology that made it possible to develop a photograph in less than a minute.

The Polaroid quickly became a consumer favourite, as it eliminated the previous long-development process. Prior to the invention of the Polaroid, photographers had to wait a considerable amount of time for images to be developed.

Photo by Thomas Backa

A student of Harvard University, Land was at the forefront of polarizing technology. Throughout the early 20th century, Land worked to develop polarizing film as well as filters capable of polarizing light.

He joined George Wheelwright in 1932 to form the Land-Wheelwright Laboratories. It was here that he pushed ahead with his work and developed the first Polaroid camera. Much of his work was geared to the development of sunglasses, but the technology he developed went on to be used in a variety of fields from photography to color animation and even to military endeavours.

He would later go on to assist the American military in the Cold War with the development of photo reconnaissance technology.

Polaroid introduced colour film in 1963 and created the folding camera SX-70 in 1972. With the advent of digital photography in the 1990s, the dominant brand Polaroid began to decline and the company filed for bankruptcy in 2001. In 2010, the Impossible Project began manufacturing film using Polaroid’s instant film formats and in 2017 the company rebranded itself as Polaroid Originals.

TLRs and SLRs

In 1928, the Franke & Heidecke Rolleiflex TLR or twin-lens reflex camera was released and it was known to have been the first practical reflex camera. TLRs and SLRs or single-lens reflex cameras have been available for decades but both have been even bulkier than the box-type Kodak and other more portable cameras. The Rolleiflex was different though, and it was compact enough to gain popularity in the mass market. The TLR design then became popular for high as well as low-end cameras during those years.

In 1933, the same revolution happened with the SLR when the Ihagee Exakta was released. This was a 127 rollfilm compact SLR which was followed three years later by the Kine Exacta, which was also known as the Soviet “Sport” camera. The SLR gained immediate popularity and new models as well as more innovative features were introduced back in those days.

After the First World War, the newest SLR innovation was having the eye-level viewfinder, which was first featured on the Hungarian Duflex released in 1947. A year later, it was refined with the Contax S which was the first camera to have used a pentaprism. Around the same time, the Hasselblad 1600F was released and this set the standard for medium format SLRs for many years.

In 1952, the Asahiflex was introduced and this was made by the Asahi Optical Company who is now well known for their Pentax cameras. In the 1950s, other Japanese camera makers entered the worldwide market. These brands included cameras from Canon, Nikon, and Yashica. It was Nikon F that came with interchangeable components and was called the first Japanese system camera. This helped establish Nikon’s reputation as the manufacturer of professional-level cameras. Something they continue to have today.

Future Greats of Digital Photography?

Digital photography is still a young art form, and ultimately, it isn&rsquot actually any different from film photography &ndash the techniques are the same, it&rsquos just the technology that&rsquos shifting.

Having said that, I think that these are some of the young photographers who are currently producing compelling photographic work, often in the digital medium&hellip

Michael Wolf

Wolf is best known for his photographs of cities, especially those of Chicago. Many of his photos attempt to capture elements of the city which are obvious, and yet which normally escape the eye of the camera.

Michael Wolfe at the Museum of Contemporary Photography.

Deanna Dikeman

Dikeman is slightly less well known, but has a very original style of depicting clothing. It is almost never shown on the body, but instead in the wardrobe. A photography that finds itself on the other side of fashion.

Deana Dikeman at the Museum of Contemporary Photography.

Johnathan Gitelson

Gitelson is an excellent example of how collage has been absorbed by the general practices of digital photography. His art has been compared to the comic book, and his playful/serious wit confirms this.

Johnathan Gitelson at the Museum of Contemporary Photography.

Long follows in the tradition of early 20th century realism with his &ldquoheartbreaking&rdquo photographs of the city of Havana. His work as a whole however, shows a great sense of diversity and a large scope of vision.

Tim Long at the Museum of Contemporary Photography.

Siber&rsquos work is an excellent example of the power of digital editing to act as a critique of the image and of culture itself. His most famous photographic series &ldquoFloating Logos&rdquo acts as a study of the icons of our time, Playboy, Denny&rsquos, etc. Floating signs at gas stations litter his photographic vision of America.

Matt Siber at the Museum of Contemporary Photography.

A Brief History of Erotic Photography

LONDON - Ahead of the Erotic: Passion and Desire sale in London on 16 February, author and critic Stephen Bayley looks at how the portrayal of sex has fascinated some of the greatest photographers.

It's often said the difference between pornography and erotica is simply a matter of lighting. Do you want forensic attention to sexual details or subtle evocation of mood? But there's a difference of intention too. One involves coercion and disgrace, the other beauty and delight.

Pornography and erotica predated the camera - blushing art historians may under pressure confess that Titian's Venus of Urbino is clearly masturbating - but the new image-capture technology of the nineteenth century increased the supply and demand for both.

The respectable pioneers of French photography, Auguste Belloc and Felix-Jacques Moulin for example, ran lucrative occult trades in pornography. Often these pictures were described as "artistic nudes" and were registered at the Bibliotheque Nationale as study materials for painters. Delacroix himself used Eugene Durieu's nude photographs.

But sometimes "artistic nudes" became dirty pictures. As well as Moulin's soft-focus pubescent girls with vestigial breasts dressed as Bedouin maids, there were more explicit under-the-counter daguerreotypes of amateur teenage girls which got him a month in prison. The Paris police declared they were "so obscene that even to pronounce the titles would be to commit an indecency".

Mid-nineteenth century cameras dictated the style of contemporary erotic photographs: available technology always influences the expression of art. There are studio pictures showing frock-coated photographers man-handling cumbersome plate-cameras and tripods before nudes who would have to hold a stiff pose for fifteen seconds. Only a certain sort of image arises from such circumstances.

But Oscar Barnack's 1926 Leica camera changed the way all photographers worked: it was compact, fast, light and its cassette of film allowed multiple shots without re-loading. This new mobility was a catalyst to creativity in sophisticated erotic photographs in much the same way as smartphone cameras and the internet have recently globalised crude porn.

This modernist mobility was the context of Man Ray. His friends Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia sensed the sexual symbolism of machines: Picabia found even carburettors erotic. But Man Ray's astonishing image attributes sexual significance to an electric hairdryer.

At once this suggests Courbet's L'origine du monde, the history of art's most famous groin shot, as well as the "hallucinant" (deranged) state of mind cultivated by the Surrealists. Man Ray actually sent this picture to Andre Breton, the founder of Surrealism, whose belief was "beauty must be convulsive". As indeed it would be with a blast of hot air entering the vagina. This powerful, transgressive photograph blurs the frontiers of pornography and erotica.

Helmut Newton, the last man to photograph Salvador Dali, learnt about photography and women in Berlin in the thirties: as a boy he acquired a Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor and, simultaneously, his brother introduced him to the city's busy brothels. His genre became highly stylised de luxe porn, but his influences were unusual, considering his Jewish background. He admired Leni Reifenstahl, who produced propaganda for the Nazis, and his statuesque nudes reflect the sculptures of Arno Breker and the paintings of Adolf Zeigler, both favourites of Hitler.

Zeigler painted women as if they were architecture: perfect domical, hemispherical breasts, columnar legs and a marmoreal sheen, an erection of Albert Speer's, perhaps. Newton's nudes are similar: magnificent, but prim. Again, with Newton, machinery plays its part in the iconography. This picture in his "Domestic Nudes" series was shot in the laundry room of Hollywood's Chateau Marmont, a hotel once described as a "bordello for the damned". Indeed, it's been said that while Newton's photographs may lack spirituality, they have a strong sense of the occult.

And, as if to prove a connection between Eros and Thanatos, it was in the Chateau Marmont car park that Newton died when he crashed his Cadillac twelve years later. tragically appropriate for a photographer whose nudes have the solid presence of architecture, but the animation of crash test dummies.

Like Michelangelo's Medici Tomb, Robert Mapplethorpe's nude women look like men with a 36D bust. Indeed, his familiar model was Lisa Lyon, winner of the first Women's Body Building Championship in Los Angeles in 1979. Mapplethorpe adored her body and, in conspiracy with her and his Hasselblad, used Lyon nudes to disrupt the visual cliches of his own gay gym culture. Bruce Chatwin described Mapplethorpe's nudes as "cold and sharp". Adding "satanic".

To be sure, an element of darkness is often present in erotic photography. Hans Belmer's sinister trussed nudes suggest violent sado-masochism while the death's-head skull in Wim Delvoye's disturbing X-ray image of fellatio reminds us that one French expression for orgasm is "petit mort" (a little death).

But there is uncomplicated desire and delight in erotic photography too. Bob Carlos Clarke's nudes are deliciously, tangibly, texturally sexy and Gunter Sach's "Ascot" is an innocently puerile and benignly pleasurable realisation of male voyeuristic fantasies. Meanwhile, Nobuyshi Araki takes erotic pictures which play with ambiguities and make clever visual puns.

Helmut Newton once said a woman wearing a monocle would drive him "sexually insane". That's certainly one response to erotic imagery. Another is to marvel at the beautiful enigma of sex when imagined by great photographers.

1490 - Leonardo Da Vinci (Italy) : Writes the earliest surviving description of a camera obscura.

1550 Girolamo Cardano (Italy) : In his book, De Subtilitate, Cardano mentions biconvex glass (i.e. curved on both sides, thickest in the middle) making the camera obscura image sharper.

1568 Daniele Barbaro (Italy) : Wrote "La Pratica Della Perspettiva", which describes adding a diaphragm to the lens of a camera obscura to control both the amount of light passing through a lens and the depth of field.

1589 Giambattista della Porta (Italy) : Magia Naturalis is published. In this Renaissance-era best-seller, della Porta becomes the first to discuss the optical principles that were later used in the development of the SLR (Single Lens Reflex camera), as well as the telescope.