Introduction to Mass Communication MCM 101
IMAGES IN MASS COMMUNICATION INVENTION OF PHOTOGRAPHY
For almost four hundred years since the invention of printing press in 1443, the print media was
relying on words for the purpose of mass communication. There had been also the use of sketches like
cartoons and illustrations but the media was totally devoid of photographs, something we can't perhaps
think of in today's world of print communication.
Since the print media was divided into a number of languages even within the European continent, the
written communication was not fully serving the purpose of news media and the analysis on events of
significance reported in newspapers, magazines or even books produced in one language. The handicaps of
verbal communication were strongly felt.
Though the desire was strong to communicate more effectively through the print media, there were no
photographs as the world did not know about photography till the middle of 19th century. Since still
photograph in the earlier part of mass communication through print and later motion pictures in other
modes of mass communication became an integral part of the process of communication, we will see in the
following lines how this technique was invented and exploited by the media so vastly.
What is photography?
Method of recording permanent images by light on to a chemically sensitive material is called
photography. It was developed in the 19th century through the artistic aspirations of two Frenchmen,
Nicιphore Niepce and Louis-Jacques-Mandι Daguerre, whose combined discoveries led to the invention of
the first commercially successful process, the daguerreotype in 1837.
In 1826 or 1827, a Frenchman, Joseph Niepce, had secured the world's earliest surviving photograph (now
lying at the University of Texas at Austin) on a plate sensitized with bitumen and exposed for eight hours in
a camera. From 1829 until his death in 1833, Niepce worked in partnership with another Frenchman, Louis
J. M. Daguerre, who in 1839 invented a means of taking photographs on copper plates lightly coated with
sensitized silver and "developed" over mercury fumes.
The introduction in 1860 of portrait photographs mounted on cards--, or visiting-card style upped
to a larger cabinet size in 1866--ended the reign of daguerreotype photography.
It also led to the creation of the family photo album and to a new public taste for flamboyantly posed portraits of celebrities,
using dramatic lights and props. As the name Brady dominated the daguerreotype era, it was Brady carte de visite of president
Abraham Lincoln, widely reproduced and distributed in the 1860 presidential campaign, that Lincoln later said helped elect
Impact of Early Photography
With the advent of the new process, came mass production and dissemination of photographic
prints. The inception of these visual documents of personal and public history engendered vast changes in
people's perception of history, of time, and of themselves. The concept of privacy was greatly altered as
cameras were used to record most areas of human life. The everywhere presence of photographic
machinery eventually changed humankind's sense of what was suitable for observation. The photograph
was considered incontestable proof of an event, experience, or state of being.
To fulfill the mounting and incessant demand for more images, photographers spread out to every corner
of the world, recording all the natural and manufactured phenomena they could find. By the last quarter of
the 19th century, most households could boast respectable photographic collections. These were in three
main forms: the family album, which contained cabinet portraits and; scrapbooks containing large prints
of views from various parts of the world; and boxes of stereoscope cards, which in combination with the
popular stereo viewer created an effective illusion of three-dimensionality.
Further Developments and scientific usages
Introduction to Mass Communication MCM 101
E. J. Marey, the painter Thomas Eakins, and Eadweard Muybridge all devised means for making
stop-action photographs that demonstrated the gap between what the mind thinks it sees and what the eye
actually perceives. Muybridge's major work, Animal Locomotion (1887), remains a basic source for artists
and scientists alike. As accessory lenses were perfected, the camera's vision extended both telescopically and
microscopically; the moon and the microorganism became accessible as photographic images.
Photographs come to news media
The introduction of the halftone process in 1881 made possible the accurate reproduction of
photographs in books and newspapers. In combination with new improvements in photographic
technology, including dry plates and smaller cameras, which made photographing faster and less
cumbersome, the halftone made immediate reportage feasible and paved the way for news photography.
George Eastman's introduction in 1888 of roll film and the simple Kodak box camera provided everyone
with the means of making photographs for themselves. Meanwhile, studies in sensitometers, the new
science of light-sensitive materials, made exposure and processing more practicable.
The power of the photograph as record was demonstrated in the 19th century when William H. Jackson's
photographs of the Yellowstone area persuaded the U.S. Congress to set that territory aside as a national
In the early 20th century photographers and journalists were beginning to use the medium to inform the
public on crucial issues in order to generate social change. Taking as their precedents the work of such men
as Jackson and reporter Jacob Riis (whose photographs of New York City slums resulted in much-needed
legislation), documentarians like Lewis Hine and James Van Der Zee began to build a photographic
tradition whose central concerns had little to do with the concept of art. The photojournalist sought to
build, strengthen, or change public opinion by means of novel, often shocking images.
Impact of New Technology
The development of the 35-mm or "candid" camera by Oskar Barnack of the Ernst Leitz company,
first marketed in 1925, made documentarians infinitely more mobile and less conspicuous, while the
manufacture of faster black-and-white film enabled them to work without a flash in situations with a
minimum of light. Color film for transparencies (slides) was introduced in 1935 and color negative
film in 1942. Portable lighting equipment was perfected, and in 1947 the Polaroid Land camera, which
could produce a positive print in seconds, was placed on the market. All of these technological advances
granted the photojournalist enormous and unprecedented versatility.
The advent of large-circulation picture magazines, such as Life (begun 1936) and Look (begun 1937),
provided an outlet and a vast audience for documentary work. At the same time a steady stream of
convulsive national and international events provided a wealth of material for the extended photo-essay, the
documentarian's natural mode. One of these was the Great Depression of the 1930s, which proved to be
the source of an important body of documentary work. Under the leadership of Roy Stryker, the
photographic division of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) began to make an archive of images of
America during this epoch of crisis. Walker Evans, Arthur Rothstein, Russell Lee, and Dorothea Lange of
the FSA group photographed the cultural disintegration generated by the Depression and the associated
disappearance of rural lifestyles.
With the coming of World War II photographers, including Margaret Bourke-White, Edward Steichen, W.
Eugene Smith, Lee Miller, and Robert Capa, documented the global conflict. The war was a stimulus to
photography in other ways as well. From the stress analysis of metals to aerial surveillance, the medium was
a crucial tool in many areas of the war effort, and, in the urgency of war, numerous technological
discoveries and advances were made that ultimately benefited all photographers.
Introduction to Mass Communication MCM 101
After the war museums and art schools opened their doors to photography, a trend that has
continued to the present. Photographers began to break free of the oppressive structures of the straight
aesthetic and documentary modes of expression. As exemplified by Robert Frank in his highly influential
book-length photo-essay, The Americans (1959), the new documentarians commenced probing what has
been called the "social landscape," often mirroring in their images the anxiety and alienation of urban life.
Such introspection naturally led to an increasingly personal form of documentary photography, as in the
works of J. H. Lartigue and Diane Arbus.
Many young photographers felt little inhibition against handwork, collage, multiple images, and other forms
that were anathema to practitioners of the straight aesthetic. Since the 1960s photography has become an
increasingly dominant medium within the visual arts. Many painters and printmakers, including Andy
Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and David Hockney have blended photography with other modes of
expression, including computer imaging in mixed media compositions at both large and small scale.
Contemporary photographers who use more traditional methods to explore non-traditional subjects include
Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince.
Other Aspects of Photography
In the contemporary world the practical applications of the photographic medium are numerous: it
is an important tool in education, medicine, commerce, criminology, and the military. Its scientific
applications include aerial mapping and surveying, geology, reconnaissance, meteorology, archaeology, and
anthropology. New techniques such as holography, a means of creating a three-dimensional image in space,
continue to expand the medium's technological and creative horizons. In astronomy the charge coupled
device (CCD) can detect and register even a single photon of light.
By the end of the 20th century digital imaging and processing and computer-based techniques had
made it possible to manipulate images in many ways, creating revolutionary changes in photography. Digital
technology allowed for a fundamental change in the nature of photographic technique. Instead of light
passing through a lens and striking emulsion on film, digital photography uses sensors and color filters. In
one technique three filters are arranged in a mosaic pattern on top of the photosensitive layer. Each filter
allows only one color (red, green, or blue) to pass through to the pixel beneath it. In the other technique,
three separate photosensitive layers are embedded in silicon. Since silicon absorbs different colors at
different depths, each layer allows a different color to pass through. When stacked together, a full color
pixel results. In both techniques the photosensitive material converts images into a series of numbers that
are then translated back into tonal values and printed. Using computers, various numbers can easily be
changed, thus altering colors, rearranging pictorial elements, or combining photographs with other kinds of
images. Some digital cameras record directly onto computer disks or into a computer, where the images can
be manipulated at will.
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