History of Photography

Having spent my entire life either in school or teaching, you’d think I wouldn’t get so giddy over another semester starting. But yesterday I started a History of Photography course. We get to read this huge book filled with iconic images and incredibly talented photographers all semester long.

Even more exciting, I’ll *get* to do three presentations over the next five months: one on a photographer from before 1945, one after 1945, and one currently working in the “field of my interest” (ah! what’s my field of interest?!).

I remember when I took my first legit Literature course and I realized that books weren’t just stories. Literature — true Literature — is a high art with its own syntax; and each canonized piece is contributing to a centuries-old dialogue. It’s humbling. It’s exhilarating. It’s awe-inspiring.

It’s similar with photography. The field has its own syntax; its own great contributors; its own great dialogue. And I’m beside myself with excitement about delving in deeper to the history and conversation surrounding the art.

It’s been forever since I left a class and immediately started doing the homework. You know, the kind of homework that you want to soak in slowly. Wake up in the morning, drink your coffee, and get a head start on? Not because there’s a deadline or a grade, but because you’re genuinely excited about the subject matter?

I even got butterflies in my stomach when I realized that I’ll have to do research. On real prints. Archived prints. You know, real old-school stuff. In a library.

And to make it even better, the sun is shining. My morning walk around the lake was filled with sunshine and we just stood and watched the ducks swim about in the water. I got all this AND started reading about the birth of photography. Did you know that this is the earliest surviving photograph (source)? It was taken in either 1826 0r 1827 and the original print is actually at Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin . . . which means I’ll actually get to see it in real life. Amazing.

view window le gras

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Camille Stallings