Why is World Photography Day on August 19?

August 19th is World Photography Day!

 

Photography is an old process, and today we celebrate this practice that is simultaneously an art, a science, and a craft. Since 2010, people all over the world have been observing World Photography Day by submitting to the online gallery at https://www.worldphotographyday.com.

 

At Gulf Photo Plus, we're celebrating with a one-day, 19% discount off any of our workshops (see more at the bottom of this post!). But why do we photographers celebrate on this particular date? We're glad you asked! Here's the history behind some of the milestones that have built up to our current photographic landscape.

 

The 'first' photographic image is difficult to identify, and it depends on the chosen definition of what qualifies. However, an early progenitor of the practice is certainly Hasan Ibn al-Haytham of Basra, who was born in Iraq. Ibn al-Haytham was a mathemetician, philosopher, physicist, and astronomer working in early 11th century Cairo.

 

 

 

He is credited with some of the earlier experiments with a 'camera obscura', which is a dark room or box that is pierced with a small hole in the wall towards the subject, the projection of which appears inverted on the opposing wall. Ibn al-Haytham deduced from his projections that light moves in straight lines.

 

Jumping ahead several centuries, we arrive to the story behind why we celebrate photography on August 19th. In 1838, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre captured this image, the first recorded photograph of a human being. 'View of the Boulevard du Temple: huit heure du matin' is a daguerrotype (from daguerrotypy, a process invented by the Frenchman), exposed for 10-12 minutes. Although a busy avenue, only a shoe-shiner and his customer are clearly visible in the image, as they were stationary in the midst of an otherwise bustling crowd.

 

 

Daguerre struggled to sell his invention commercially. After public displays in January 1839, the French Parliament was lobbied to purchase the patent to daguerrotypy and grant Daguerre a pension of 4000 francs (~$30,000 when adjusted for inflation) per year. The French government intended to "then nobly give to the whole world this discovery which could contribute so much to the progress of art and science." 

 

On August 19th of 1839, the process was made publicly available.

 

Less than 200 years later, photography has come leaps and bounds, and it has changed society in turn.

 

Photography then advanced to more permanent reproductions, first on paper and then to the silver-halide film we are all familiar with. In 1957, the first digital image was created by Russell Kirsch at the National Bureau of Standards in the USA, 2 decades before Kodak's first digital camera. 

 

 

The image is a digital scan of a negative of Kirsch's infant son, Walden Kirsch, and it's a whopping 176 x 176 pixels small. To put this in perspective, the FujiFilm GFX 100 can produce an image that is 11,648 x 8,736 pixels⏤over 3500 times larger.

 

This is the massive computer that was used to produce this miniscule image:

 

 

The tiny phone camera in your hand is hugely more powerful than the computer in this image, which occupied an enire room.

 

Computers got much smaller, and in the early 1990s, Sir Tim Berners-Lee was working at CERN⏤the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. Sir Berners-Lee is credited as the founder of the World Wide Web, and on July 18, 1992, he uploaded the first image on the Internet.

 

 

The image depicts a parody doo-wop band: Les Horribles Cernettes, made up of Michele Muller, Colette Marx-Nielsen, Angela Higney, and Lynn Veronneau. Michele, ex-actress and 3D graphic designer at CERN, was dating a computer scientist and grew frustrated with her boyfriend's lengthy shifts. She decided to form a band with her colleagues, and they sang humorously about all things on the cutting-edge of physics. This amused Sir Berners-Lee, who asked for a few scanned images of the band, which he then manipulated in the first version of Photoshop on an early Macintosh and uploaded to his World Wide Web.

 

On July 16, 2010 the first image on Instagram was uploaded by Kevin Systrom, one of the founders of the social media platform. The photograph, captioned 'test', depicts a dog (whose name is unknown) and the foot of Systrom's girlfriend. Today, more than 95 million photos are uploaded to Instagram daily.

 

 

 

We've come a long way!

 

To celebrate, we're offering a one-day, 19% discount on any of our workshops with the code 'WPD19'. This code is valid on any and all workshops, but you have to book by midnight tonight

 

Wondering where to start?

  • Join us for Shooting & Developing Film on September 5th if you'd like to learn more about the history of photography
  • Photography Level 1 is the perfect starting place for beginners
  • Introduction to Adobe Photoshop is a great place to learn the essentials of editing (Sir Tim-Berners Lee definitely could've benefitted from this class when he was editing the first image uploaded to the internet!)

Finally, we urge you to go out and take some photos! Or stay indoors and take photos. But once shot, submit them to the online gallery at https://www.worldphotographyday.com, and tag #worldphotographyday when sharing.

 

Keep shooting!

 

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