Speakerbox No. 14 - Stefanie Bach

Written by

Stefanie Bach



18. July 2018

Estimated Reading Time

5:32 Minutes

Gooqx Speakerbox
No. 14 - Steffi Bach

A brief history of photography or selfies in today’s age

We have all been there: a friend recommends a book, shows it to you and instead of writing down the name, we just take a photo of the cover. Easy. Almost everyone of us uses a smartphone nowadays and with their introduction came new habits of everyday life. But it has not always been as easy as brushing one’s teeth.

Two smart Frenchmen from the 1820s were eagerly searching for a method to multiply images in an efficient a fast way, the pre-photography era was about to be changed in the process forever. Nicéphore Niépce and Louis Jaques Mandé Daguerre lived in a world of woodcuts or copper engravings as the only means to replicate images. It was still a very difficult mechanism and lithography was the way to go - an inconvenient method of printing a chemically treated image to a photosensitive surface on a heavy stone. Needless to say, this construct needed several hours in the sun to show progress. But these two Frenchmen were dissatisfied with waiting. Instead, they were experimenting curiously with the camera obscura, an art history classic on almost every class curriculum nowadays for its relevance in time. Not gaining the results they wanted, they almost surrendered in their quest for image-duplication until one lucky event where Daguerre discovered a perfectly replicated picture by accident: it was printed on a zinc plate inside his closet, where he had previously stored his chemicals. Iodine vapors caused an imprint on the zinc plate which has been exposed to light inside the camera obscura for many hours before. A technique which is now called ‚daguerrotype'. Yet, this method was not close to being a replicable photography as we know it today. It was Nicéphore Niépce who, by accident as well, created the first photography in human history: a blurry image of a village scenery, titled „View from the window at le Gras“. This one has also been the result of a happy coincidence with the camera obscura which was made possible with an eight hours exposure time. However, there was still no way to effectively duplicate images. The quest continued and took many more years of research and experimentation to result in the negative-positive procedure as we know it to finally bring forth analogue photography.

Gooqx Speakerbox No. 14 - Stefanie Bach taking pictures has not always been easy
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Do you remember that time when you had 36 chances to take a good photo? Wasn’t it thrilling to hand in a film and wait for the developed pictures afterwards? But soon came digitalization and the first digital camera appeared in 1991. Still far from the touch- and flip-screens we know today, the first digi camera of this kind was engineered.

Time is always running fast and most parts of our lives are now high-tech, often minimized to fit pockets - a massive development in how we live our lives today: We all know these moments, having the perfect cappuccino, avocado toast, acai bowl in front of us, enjoying a sundowner or beach epiphany while we already have one finger at the camera button of our phone to capture perfection. Influencers are taking this crave for the perfect photo to a new level. With the rise of social media as a way of communication and exchange platform, images as a commodity have taken over traditional business fields. An image is only as strong as its content, so every photo shows a perfect life, perfect little dog, lovely dresses and perfect holiday destinations themed La dolce vita. To stay approachable and authentic, images hashtagged #iwokeuplikethis or #nofilter were introduced by those picture-perfect influencers. Smart marketing. BRUD - a start-up for researching into and creating artificial intelligence, unsurprisingly based in Silicon Valley, build a digital persona called Miquela, who seems to be a 19 year old Brazilian girl. The lines between reality and fiction blurred, when she started with famous brands, signed modeling deals and reached over 1 million followers on Instagram. But she is not physically real like you or me. She is an AI character. Where does this take us in the future?

Many have started speculating about how the world will develop in the next decades. Although being a commercial movie streaming and production company, Netflix started airing episodes of their often dystopian and socially-critical series Black Mirror which takes today’s existing technological developments and brings them even further and ad absurdum to showcase possible futures. One episode called ‚Nose-dive‘, attention spoilers, is based on social media life as we know it but takes it one step further: personal and social ratings via a common platform to rank interactions with colleagues, friends, family members and even strangers. Your pictures are determining, wether your next job, apartment or rental is better or even worse. We can imagine how things would go south if this was reality.

Yet, it is not too far off from where we are heading: a city in China, called Rongcheng, is currently putting a points-system to the test, connecting every citizen of the city to social media with all their social security numbers, credit rankings and social activities. The development of photography and social media has also taught us that one image can be very powerful, triggering specific reactions from its viewers. Think Putin, bare-chested, riding a horse, symbolizing a strong, powerful man. This already transfers a certain image or opinion of his leadership skills and of his role as a head of state, on a very subconscious level. Same goes for fake news. If we see a picture in a certain context, our brain won’t be able to tell if it was real or fake at first. Each and every image is taken by one individual, the photographer who has a unique view on the sujet he or she is portraying. Perspective, blur, exposure, distance and image sections are already limiting the scene to the viewpoint of the photographer. Doesn’t this make pictures artificial? And can photography still represent reality?

So, is it real or is it fake?

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