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Matinee: 'We Are All Photographers' Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

10 July 2021

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 404th in our series of Saturday matinees today: We Are All Photographers.

In this 3:55 video, Nina Jones covers a lot of ground in the history of photography, from the earliest humans tracing charcoal outlines on the walls of their caves to present-day Neanderthals sharing cellphone photos over the Internet.

Jones is the film technician and doctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham in England. But she's been working as a freelance filmmaker for over 14 years and has edited two international feature-length documentaries.

The birth of photography is obscure, she says, but we can be sure it began with the camera obscura because it's 'a natural optical phenomenon.'

She's particularly focused on the ethical decisions required when produce a true-crime documentary. "Ultimately, I will be asking the question: can true crime be entertaining and on the right side of ethics?," she writes of her project, which will be a 60-minute documentary thesis.

But in this little clip, she concerns herself with the camera obscura for World Photography Day. That was the original title of the piece, in fact, but we rather liked her observation that these days, we're all photographers.

Europeans, she tells us, take about five photos a day, totaling 1.2 billion in 2017 alone. Photography is, simply, "a huge part of everyday life," she says.

How did it all start? The birth of photography is obscure, she says, but we can be sure it began with the camera obscura because it's "a natural optical phenomenon." We see her cutting up cardboard as she constructs one.

At first the camera obscura was thought to have originated in the 11th century, she says. But recent research has found evidence of the camera obscura in cave paintings from the Paleolithic era 20,000 years ago. That evidence relies on the distortions of the drawings, which could have been the result of projection against the uneven surface of the cave walls.

The earliest written examples of the camera obscura originate in 4th century BC in China when Han philosopher Mozi described it as a "treasure house." In 1502 Leonardo da Vinci wrote a detailed description of it in his notebooks, which refer to it frequently.

Artists like Canaletto and scientists like Kepler found it an invaluable tool.

But the camera obscura was merely a pretext for what came next. And that was the technology to capture what the pinhole lens projected, which was finally realized in 1827.

But it all started with the camera obscura, she reminds us, before showing some very famous images to conclude her swift but comprehensive history of imaging.

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