One of my very good friends, in life as well as in photography, had a book sent to me that he had come across and thought I would enjoy. It is called “500 Cameras—170 Years of Photographic Innovation” by Todd Gustavson. I’d not heard of the book, but one look at its contents and I could see that it was a treasure trove of both the pictorial and narrative history of cameras.
In my study, I have up high on
a shelf those cameras which I have used in my life, along with several I’ve
received from my parents, and a couple more that have been gifts. Beyond this small collection of cameras, I
really know very little about the history of cameras, or even the history of
photography for that matter.
When we get that first camera, or maybe that first “real”
camera, it’s easy to think that that’s the beginning. But I realize of course that in the larger
context of my photographic knowledge and experiences, I’ve really only started
in the middle. And as much as I strived to move forward, improving
my skills, understanding, knowledge, and techniques, I recognize that there is
at least an equal amount of learning that lies behind me, i.e. in the history
of photography. In pursuit of my photographic
passion, I seek out lectures, videos, tutorials, articles, etc, from current
masters and artisans, but have come to the realization that I’m missing much in
the way of foundation. For it is this
foundation which provides the stronger context to better understand equipment,
techniques, and the very art and language of design that’s needed for impactful
image creation…what we simply call photography.
There is a certain respect and reverence that I believe one
should have for those who have gone before…carving paths, breaking down
barriers, solving technological problems, etc…, and that respect can best be
given by learning more about the early pioneers of photography and how they
approached there craft. Learning about
their tools and their inherent challenges will no doubt stand in stark contrast
to the almost miraculously versatility and power of the hardware and software
tools we now have at our disposal.
Every now and then it takes a little kick, or jolt, to move
us off our “automatic” frame of mind and get us to look at, and think about,
things differently. Receiving this book
from my friend will help me do that…what a terrific gift to receive.