The concept of immortalising and capturing a moment in life has always been fascinating to human beings. Just consider the numerous masterpieces created by various artists worldwide over the centuries. In a way, painters were the first photographers in history, even unknowingly.
However, the idea of capturing reality changed in 1827 when the collaboration between the French chemist Louis Daguerre and the French painter/engraver Joseph Nicéphore Niépce gave birth to the first photograph in history, Le Point de vue du Gras. Finally, on August 19th, 1839, physicist François Arago presented the daguerreotype, the first photographic process for image development, at the Academy of Sciences and Visual Arts in Paris.
Since that day, much has changed. Initially, photography wasn't considered an art form but merely a tool used by painters for drafting and developing their works. Later, photographs became exchanged as gifts, used as business cards, or to indicate social status.
It wasn't until the 20th century that perceptions of photography began to shift. People started realising the power and versatility of this tool. Photography can be art, as seen in the captivating portraits by photographer Steve McCurry and the landscapes immortalised by Andreas Gursky. It can also serve as a testament to events in our reality, demonstrated by photojournalist Jean-Marc Bouju and photographer Edward Burtynsky, who employs his art to denounce abuses against nature.
Today, photography is so commonplace that it's nearly taken for granted. However, it's a relatively recent privilege. Smartphones and modern technology, in general, have sparked a revolution, granting anyone access to photography and the ability to take an unlimited number of photos. Of course, simply taking photos doesn't make one a photographer, just as having canvas and brushes doesn't make us Leonardo da Vinci.
While we might not become the next great photographers of our time, it's impossible to imagine our life without photography. We capture moments with friends, showcase our meals on social media, and attempt to seize the beauty of landscapes, among other things. Moreover, some photos are incredibly iconic, representing an era or a crucial part of our history. Photography is our way of preserving a moment that's forever gone, which might explain our fascination with it. As Andy Warhol once said, "The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do."
Gaia is an Italian Praxis volunteer involved in the International Photography Day.