In the grand scheme of the world’s history, photography is still a fledgling field. But even though the first permanent photograph was not taken until 1826, the discoveries and inventions that helped Joseph Nicéphore Niépce make his way into the history books date back to the 6th century. The camera as we know it was predated by the camera obscura, a “darkened chamber or box, into which light is admitted through a pinhole, forming an image of external objects.” Scientists and mathematicians experimented with the camera obscura for centuries, but had no way to preserve the images other than tracing them. Finally, in the early 1700′s Johann Heinrich Schultz found that a silver and chalk mixture reacted to exposure to light, a discovery that was built on and led the the development of daguerreotypes and wet plates, and eventually photographic paper. Today most cameras are digital, using an electronic image sensor, and can be found in many electronic devices such as computers and cell phones. Whether you prefer an old-fashioned wooden box camera, a digital SLR, or the 35mm camera from your childhood, Camera Day is a day to appreciate the device responsible for capturing the moments of our lives.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that my kids will never have to go to the drug store to get their film developed. I was already out of college by the time digital cameras became affordable, and by affordable I mean $500 for a 2 megapixel camera. And it was heavy. Cameras have improved so much since then, and I love not only their crispness and quality, but also their ease and cost. Long gone are the days of saving up my extra cash just so I could pay for the prints I had to pick up. But at the same time I almost feel like something is missing from the digital world. Sure, I can post my pictures instantaneously, and take as many as I want, but all of that is intangible. Sometimes I miss flipping through old photo books or shuffling through a pile of photographs. Of course I can order prints online, or create a beautiful photo book (we made a great one of our wedding for our parents and grandparents), but that always seems to be one of the things I talk about doing and never really get around to. This “intangibleness”, coupled with memories of the fun we had on World Pinhole Photography Day, has made me feel a little nostalgic for “old school” photography. Maybe it’s time for me to take up a new hobby.