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When photography first emerged in the mid 19th Century, it not only transformed the arts, particularly painting, but it also had a huge impact on society as a whole. First invented in the 1830s by Louis-Jacques-MandeDaguerre, who created the ‘daguerreotype camera’; a technology that was quickly embraced by artists who instantly saw its incredible potential.
Camera technology rapidly evolved and towards the end of the 19th Century, in 1888, George Eastman’s invention of the first commercially viable roll-film handheld camera, made by the famous Kodak company, truly democratized photography. This ingenious invention meant that many artists and members of the public could suddenly afford to purchase and easily use a camera!
The original Kodak roll-film handheld camera sold for about $25, which was approximately the equivalent to 2 weeks of the average wage. The camera had 100 exposures and once the photos were taken it had to be sent back to the factory where they would develop the photos and then send them back to the customer!
Photography Forever Changed The Relationship Between Art, Reality And Society.
Right from the beginning, photography completely changed the relationship that people, and artists in particular, had to reality itself. Never before had it been possible to quickly capture a perfect representation of subjects, landscapes and daily life. Previous to this, an artist had to train for many years and then spend many weeks or months to paint a single picture whereas now, an image could be snapped in a matter of moments with relatively little training.
This shift in people’s perspectives had the effect of helping to birth some of the most influential artistic movements of the 20th Century and beyond, including Impressionism, Cubism and, arguably, Minimalism.
After The Invention Of Photography Artists Looked For New Ways To Represent The World Around Them.
Following the invention of the camera artists began to look for new ways to represent their subjects. Modern art began to emerge from the traditional classical art and although it was frowned upon by the elitists in museums and the artworld, the general public loved the new types of painting and art.
For example, when the Impressionists first emerged in Paris they were shunned by the artworld and it wasn’t until after Monet’s death, one of the leading figures of the movement, that his work was displayed in one of the city’s major galleries.
However, the elitist attitude that turned its back on the new art movements also looked down upon the new developments in photography! It was felt that the democratization of the arts was wrong and that art should only be reserved for the upper classes in society. It was also claimed that photography cheapened the arts and lowered the tone! In the end though, there was no way to put the Genie back in the bottle and both photography and modern art were unstoppable, and soon swept the world.
Impression, Cubism And Abstract Expressionism Burst Onto The Scene.
The Impressionist movement in art was largely inspired by early photography while other movements, such as Cubism, Futurism and Abstract Expressionism were more influenced by ‘Chronophotography’, or, as it is known today, ‘time lapse photography’.
The Impressionist movement began in Paris in around 1874 and was spearheaded by Claude Monet, Camille Pissaro and Edgar Degas. These painters would freely experiment with light and form and tried to represent emotion in their paintings in a naturalistic and unconventional way. Often using erratic paint strokes and painting regular everyday scenes they became hugely popular with the general public.
Artists such as Picasso led the Cubist movement, reimagining the way that reality could be represented. His subjects were portrayed from multiple angles within a single image, giving them a strange sense of motion and depth.
In the field of Abstract Expressionism artists including Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell were also inspired, in part, by the possibilities that time lapse photography enabled. The Abstract Expressionists sought to create art that focused on pure form and color leaving the more realistic representations of reality to the new breed of photographers.
Part of the motivation for the new generations of painters and artists was that they were looking for methods of representing their subjects which photography could not imitate. This let them continue to stand out while keeping their own artforms, painting in this case, relevant and popular in society.
Photographers Take Influence From Painters During The Later Part Of 20th Century.
Ironically, by the end of the 20th Century the tables had turned once more and photographers began to increasingly look for ways to imitate paintings, especially the Impressionist movement. This gave birth to the Impressionist photography genre and although it never went mainstream it is a popular niche amongst the more artistic and creative photographers.
Other artists such as Andy Warhol returned to the notion of representing objects in a naturalistic way although he was mainly inspired by the photography found in the advertising industry. He would represent everyday objects in repeated prints and paintings in bold, garish colors that inspired generations of future artists.
Impressionism And Photography – What Is Impressionist Photography?
Impressionist photography takes its inspiration from the master painters of the Impressionist movement; particularly from Claude Monet and Edgar Degas, although the entire movement is also referred to.
The technique uses several main methods to achieve the type of dreamy photos that are often hard to distinguish from a painting at first glance.
Tips For Creating Your Own Impressionist Photos.
If you’ve never dived into the exciting genre of Impressionist photography then it’s worth a try! It’s a fantastic way to explore and develop your creative side while producing unique artistic images.
- Intentional Camera Movement: This is one of the easiest methods of creating powerful Impressionist photos. All you need to do is to slightly move your camera while the shutter is still open; in other words, intentionally move your camera in the middle of a photo. You’ll have to use a relatively slow shutter speed of a few seconds to achieve this. It’ll also help if you use a tripod so you can control the movement better than if you just try to jerk your hand around mid shot! For instance, while your camera is on the tripod you can slightly pan it horizontally or vertically while the shutter is open.
- Use The Focus: Another technique to produce great Impressionist photography is to pull the lens out of focus. Set your camera to the Aperture Priority Mode and use a wide aperture. Don’t forget that the small f-stop numbers are the wider aperture, so try using f/2.4 or f/4. This will give you a shallow depth of field which will naturally blur the image. You can also use the focus to further blur the image making it look very much like a painting. Always experiment with the focus and depth of field to get the scene looking just right.
- Zoom Bursts And Blurs: This is a great technique that is fun to use and easy to pick up. To achieve a ‘zoom burst’ you just need to use a slow shutter speed, and preferably a tripod, and then while the shutter is open you zoom a fraction into the image. This will cause an interesting blur from the center of the image, moving outwards, and makes it feel as though the subject is ‘bursting’ towards you!
General Tips To Remember When Creating Impressionist Photography.
- Always keep an open mind! Abstract photography is about freeing your creative instincts and finding the potential in subjects and scenes that others don’t see.
- Look for the generalized shapes and forms in your subjects. These can be used to build the compositional structure that is essential for high quality Impressionist photos and art in general.
- Explore everyday scenes because these are often full of interesting angles, color contrasts, shapes and forms. Using the camera techniques described above you can shoot some wonderful Impressionist shots of mundane items and scenery.
World Leading Impressionist Photographer – Eva Polak.
Impressionist photography is a fairly niche field to work in however there are some people who have succeeded in a professional capacity. One of the most famous professional Impressionist photographers in the modern world is Eva Polak. Her mesmerizing work is stunning and hugely inspirational for all creative photographers.
Eva Polak manages to capture subtle movements in her work while using perfect color palettes that nicely complement the drama in her work. Eva Polak is primarily an Impressionist photographer but she is also takes inspiration from Minimalists of the past.
She advises that the best way to start taking your own Impressionist photos is to prioritize the aperture or shutter speed on your camera.
Her work is always worth studying, even if you’re just looking for some interesting new inspiration for a project!
The Influence Of Photography On Painting And Society Is Incalculable.
When photography burst onto the scene in the later parts of the 19th Century it’s impact was enormous. From its beginnings as an expensive pursuit which could only be enjoyed by the wealthy it’s democratization with cheaper, widely available camera systems provided an amazing creative outlet for everyone in society.
Photography, and the equipment used to create it, has continued to develop and evolve; and today, more people than ever have access to high quality cameras! As a result, the trend is clear that photography, in all its future manifestations, will continue to influence the arts and society in many unexpectedly wonderful ways.