In 2026, photography will celebrate its 200th year as one of man’s most formidable and classic inventions. Credit is due to the Frenchman Nicephore Niepce, who in 1826 used the heliograph technique to capture the very first photograph. It was named the “View from the Window at Le Gras”, a black and white photo depicting his neighborhood. Since then, photography has evolved so dramatically that today, it has become an inseparable part of our lives.
But photography has its roots dated back as far as 500BCE, to the earliest records of the camera obscura, a Latin term which stands for “dark chamber” where an image is projected through a darkened box using a lens. Rumor has it that Da Vinci himself toyed around with this concept and conspiracy theories even link it to the creation of the miraculous Shroud of Turin. This ancient invention is the precursor to the analog camera.
Exuding a perfect marriage of art and technology, photography has given birth to a new form of capturing moments. What was once a year’s work for a painter, a camera can process in days. Today, a moment is captured in a matter of milliseconds. Whist the prevalence of smartphones and high-tech digital cameras allow for stunning photographs even for amateurs, true photography remains a discipline, an art form, and a profession. Taking pictures requires an investment in time, patience, skill-building, and an eye for design.
Photography is not merely taking a selfie. Today’s high-tech culture has developed a bad habit of “snap-and-delete”. It has become so easy to take a photo yet it has ever become so difficult to capture a moment. Gone were the days of film photography where every shot mattered and every snap cannot go to waste. It required you to study the proper lighting, exposure, aperture, shutter speed, and f-stop. You just don’t click the button because once you do, you cannot delete. It required you to go to a dark room and have your film developed. Oh what joy to see your photos emerge from a blank slate!
While the heydays of film photography has gone, the industry continues to evolve. Cameras have shrunk considerably, allowing it to be carried outdoors, sunk into deep depths of the seas, flown up in the skies, and used to capture breathtaking images of space. A century ago, nobody would have thought man could actually take a photo of a black hole. Today, that very photo exists.
While the old is surely missed, the future of photography holds so much promise.