How many of us actually know the genealogical roots of the camera we hold in our hands?
It’s in the ringtone that follows you no matter where you go, be it the bathroom or concert hall. It’s in the subway, where kids are perpetually bent over it playing games involving grouchy-looking red birds and the like. And it’s at every important event, as little flashes go off here and there to commemorate special moments. What I’m trying to say is, it’s obvious that the camera phone has become a permanent fixture in our daily lives—not to mention in the annals of modern history. But how many of us actually know the genealogical roots of the camera we hold in our hands?
“Know from whence you came,” wrote James Baldwin. “If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” And that’s more than a coffee-cup slogan; that’s a helpful strategy for improving and enhancing any artistic endeavor! In the spirit of such wisdom, take a look at the following video. It’s a 6-minute introduction to the history of the camera as presented by Todd Gustavson, technology curator of the George Eastman House, which happens to be the oldest photography museum in the world. (The tour of the camera collection starts around the 2-minute mark.)
It’s a humbling experience to witness the diversity of influence that has shaped each successive incarnation of the camera. As Mr. Gustavson says, “cameras allow individuals to document their personal lives, whatever they find interesting,” and what people find interesting throughout history is as different as it is insightful—for the enthusiast, for the practical user, and for the artist, too.