The Evolution of Photography the in the United States


TheEvolution of Photography the in the United States

TheEvolution of Photography the in the United States

Photographyhas undergone tremendous changes due to technological, economic, andpolitical changes in the United States. For clarity,photo-journalism is the main focus of this discussion becausephotography is a broad area and its history narrows to specificapplications of photography in the social, economic, political livesof Americans. Hence, the development of photography, especiallyphoto-journalism has also been in tandem with America’s developmentin other areas such as transportation, manufacturing, and theexpansion of the economy.

In1839, the daguerreotype, the first device that could record real-lifeimages was invented by Louis Daguerre and Joseph Nicéphone(Griffin,1999). The device was made of copper plates. As soon as the devicewas out and ready to be used, American entrepreneurs also found anopportunity to make money out of it. The daguerreotype wasinstrumental in taking the first photographs of the Mexican-AmericanWar. Unfortunately, the first photographs did not have a hugecultural impact because the general public never had access to them. In the 1850s, the daguerreotype took the commercial center stagehundreds of studios through which they trained photographers whilethey also recorded many natural events that took place during thatperiod. The surge of the daguerreotype during the 1850s promptedhistorians to refer to the period as “The golden era ofphotography”. Photography evolved the only modern means throughwhich journalists could record news events.

Astechnological innovations increased, greater interest in photographyalso increased exponentially. Trained and expert photographersimproved from the daguerreotype to producing stereoscopic view cards.Stereoscopic views cards were a huge improved because they could beproduced massively and pictures on the photographs almost produced athree-dimensional display of the image. The market of thestereoscopic photographs was exacerbated by improvements intransportations and communications. Steam engine trains aided themailing of photographs from one area to another. The discovery ofmail order catalogues was also a significant discovery that createdmarket for stereoscopic photographs because people could collect themfrom the studios. The market also favored photographs because theywere relatively cheaper compared to paintings. An example of a famousphotographer of the 1860s is Mathew Brady who used his popularphotography business to record a lot of events during CivilWar(Brennen&ampHardt,1999).For instance, Brady took a photograph of President Abraham Lincolnduring the 1860 Presidential Campaigns as shown below:

Thesecond photograph shows the second battle of the Virginia during theCivil War. Taking photographs in events in the 19thcentury was not journalistic, but for storage and preservation ofhistory. Although the United States advanced the idea ofphotojournalism in the early twentieth century, the profession beganin Germany when the 35 mm Leica camera was invented. The Leicaallowed photographers to move around and take photographs. Editorswould then analyze the photographs to choose the ones that bestrepresented the story. Frank Luther Mott, a history professor at theUniversity of Missouri School of journalism, was the first person touse the term photojournalism. Henry Luce, the founder of the Time andFortune magazine’s came up with Life,amagazine that took advantage of the rise of photojournalism duringWWII to publish photographs about news events in the United States. The first photojournalist cover story was about Fort Deck Dam inMontana. The photograph was taken by Margaret Bourke-White. Thearticle described lives of workers who lived in the shanty towns nearthe building’s site. Since then, photography has been part ofmainstream journalism especially print media.


Brennen,B., &ampHardt, H. (1999).Picturingthe past: Media, history, and photography.Universityof Illinois Press.

Griffin,M. (1999). The great war photographs: Constructing myths of historyand photojournalism. Picturingthe past: Media, history, and photography,122-157.