From Camera Obscura to Cellphone Cameras

Using lenses an inverted image of a tree can be projected on a surface inside a dark room. Other objects of course could be reflected. This was the Camera Obscura. Aside from the novelty of the technology one of the practical uses was to copy images on a projected surface: A painter would trace the figure and voila! A near perfect depiction of the projected object. And this was the secret of a number of painters.

Of course the projection of an image via the Camera Obscura jumped technologically when it was discovered that you could burn the image on a reactive surface, leaving behind an image of the object. If the simple projection of an image via the camera obscure was in the realm of Physics. The burning or reaction of a surface to the projected image is in the realm of Chemistry. It is an example of how science can provide innovation and improve life.

When the camera boxes came out they were BROGDINAGIAN: HUGE and Expensive. Interestingly enough the two uses of the camera were in the realm of Science and Arts. Discoveries and phenomena were and are continually recorded by cameras. A number of these cameras were customised for this. The Fish-Eye lens was created to get to see everything in front of you with one shot. The first panoramic cameras were used to take snapshots of a field before and after it was bombarded by mortar fire. Cameras have and are attached to microscopes and telescopes. At the same time when the camera appeared another use was for aesthetic pleasure and purpose. The first cameras were used to recreate and adapt famous art works. Painting both classical and Impressionistic were re-interpreted. Not surprisingly, Painters were initially alarmed with the camera – would the camera replace them? History would prove that they had nothing to fear. Technology does not make one a Picasso. It was up to the skill and determination of the individual to harness and make use of the camera. An often quoted maxim among photographers – its the Indian and not the bow: Its not the technology but the hand that wields it that make it useful and successful.

As time progressed the technology of cameras evolved. Cameras shifted from glass, metal plates, to film and digital sensors. Cameras evolved from large box cameras to pocket-sized cameras able to fit in one’s eponymous pocket (Olympus Pen). Twin-Lens Reflexes, Single Lens Reflex, Range finders, and compact cameras came. Making the art and science of photography everywhere and to anyone. Kodak’s Brownie Camera made thing as simple as possible, just take a shot and bring to the Kodak store and Kodak print those shots for you. A few scores before the beginning of the 2000s the Instant Camera made it’d appearance and negated the need to go to the photoshop. And much nearer the beginning of the 2000s the first digital camera came and soon digital technology would envelope cameras of all sorts. Of course the camera phone handed this technology to the hands of a greater part of the human race – bringing about selfies, selfie sticks, wacky shots, OTD, group shots, flickr and Instagram.

The Ubiquity: The Constant Presence Everywhere of the camera from the cameras of photographers, the cameras of satellites in space and the cameras in cellphones and across time has been having a profound impact on Human Civilisation:

Portraits – formal, informal and even post-mortem have recorded and preserved our story. Probably one of the more poignant would be the image and moving image of the extinct Tasmanian Wolf.
Snapshots of Rubber Plantation workers mutilated, as a form of punishment, in the Belgian Congo because of the policy of the Belgian King was one of the factors that led to the worldwide condemnation and eventual dropping of the practice of the Belgian King as the feudal lord of the Belgian Congo.
Artworks produced like: Atomicus featuring Salvador Dali, several cats, water, chairs and other things. Works of Henri Cartier Bresson, Arthur Fellig, Ansel Adams, Diane Arbus, Robert Capa, Eugene Smith and others.
Preserving and Capturing the snapshot of human and nature events from the End of World War II, the Atomic Bomb Explosion; the Eruption of Mount Pinatubo; the foot print of the Astronaut who landed on the Moon: the first snapshot of a human being born; and countless snapshots of each human being with a camera.

For good or for worse the camera is now one of the essential parts gf Our Society. Whether it be anolog or digital and whether it is a big or a pocket sized, Humans: We use it (i) for enjoyment, (ii) for business, (iii) for research, (iv) for recording, preserving and remembering. It will probably be one of the technology we will have for some time.

Posted in Lecture Notes, Science and Nature, Technology | Tagged | Leave a comment