Historically speaking travel photos have been around a long time. The development of photography made it possible for the masses to see foreign and distant places affordably and in the realism photography supplies. The Daguerreotype announced by Luis Jacques Mande Daguerre in France, 1839 had remarkable detail and was perfect for landscape and travel photography. The slow speed, a problem for shooting portraits, and other moving objects worked well within the natural setting where long exposures could be made without too much impact on the subject. The only problem with this type of capture was it could not be reproduced easily. Many early scenic Daguerreotypes were converted into etchings by artists who could then reproduce the image.
A couple of photographers, partners, Southworth and Hawes, made photographs of Niagara Falls as early as 1845, only 6 years after the invention of photography was announced by Daguerre and Francis Fox Talbot. Francis Fox Talbot an Englishman announced his invention of photography the same year as Daguerre. Talbot’s method involved a negative made on paper. This method left detail to be desired so it was not immediately adopted as the photographic process of choice even though it could be reproduced multiple times. As we know later, the negative to positive method became the state of the art.
Talbot’s “Collotype” eventually improved to the point where it reproduction of reality was acceptable for travel type photography. Since it was easier to use and reproducible it quickly overtook the Daguerreotype and found favor with governments wishing to record outlands and accomplishments of the industrial revolution. During the time of Napoleon III, the Commission of Historical Monuments, sent photographers around France to document the monuments and architecture. The United States sent teams of photographers out west to begin documentation and survey for future development of the country. Railroads used the images to help determine the best place to lay the tracks to open up the west.
In reality at the time, photography was somewhat difficult for the common person. Not only was the equipment bulky and difficult to use it had particular knowledge necessary to make a proper exposure and development of the image. The professional photographer began to emerge. The pro would haul his gear to sites of wonder, like the pyramids in Egypt, make photographs and then sell them to tourists as mementos of their trip.
Stereographs entered the scene and a whole new way of seeing distant places began to rise. Like turning all your LP’s into CD” people wanted the new thing and photographers had a continuing market.
Times have changed; captures are digital and easy to make even for the non-professional photographer. Millions of vacation photographs are made every day. Transmission and reproduction has never been simpler. Our audience has gotten more sophisticated. Magazines publish stories illustrated with photography all the time. What’s lost, I’m afraid, is the importance of the image made by a professional photographer. Kodak spent a lot of money advertising the ease of photography and has left the impression all one needs to do is push a button. We know that’s not the truth.
In fact some things haven’t’ changed from those old days. The equipment is still bulky and difficult to transport on airplanes. To use it properly and to maximize image quality it requires particular knowledge, and programs, and equipment and… Back in 1845 it was all about the image. Now in 2008 it’s still all about the image. Any travel article would never be read today if not for the photography accompanying it. The importance of the image is paramount to the success of the story. If a photo doesn’t grab me while flipping through a travel magazine I don’t bother reading the words.
What we do is powerful. What we do is important. Someone coined the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”. They were so right. Robert Essel’s work http://www.robertessel.com is a great example of travel and vacation photography captured by a pro. Those thousand words being photographed and put on paper. The creative choices made through lens, focus, and camera angle he exhibits are the kinds of things that make the difference. His work would make me read the article.
I say, well done, Robert.
I’m Eliot Crowley and this is my opinion.
Candidate for Masters of Fine Arts Degree, Academy of Art University, San Francisco
Faculty: Brooks Institute, Santa Barbara, CA
APA General Member since mid 80’s