Photography History: Ubiquity

And we’re finally back on our trek through photography history. History Geek got the DeLorean patched up and is feeling up to the trip this time around. So, let’s set the time circuits for the end of World War II and look at photography as it became more prevalent and culturally entrenched, particularly in the United States.

With the smaller, easier to carry and use Kodak cameras, photography was well on its way to becoming the new American pastime. Throughout the 1950s, during the boom that followed the end of the second World War, amateur photography as well as professional photography grew by leaps and bounds. Not only did Kodak continue to make cameras smaller and easier to use, the assembly-line process also made them cheaper, bringing them into the price range of the average American consumer.

Prior to World War II, photography, while not uncommon, had remained mostly in the hands of professionals for newspapers and magazines or for the upper-middle class enthusiasts. When the war was over and the G.I.s returned home, cameras — along with cars, refrigerators, and early television sets — were one of the many consumer devices to flood the market and become household items.

Cameras, in the hands of amateurs and professionals alike, would provide some of the most culture-changing photographs and movies. In 1963, Abraham Zapruder, a Dallas businessman, captured the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on his video camera. Photography also provided some of the images that brought about a sea change in American opinion concerning the Vietnamese conflict. Photographs of the Apollo 11 mission helped to capture the imagination of people the world over. Photographs taken during the Vietnam War helped to turn American popular opinion against the war. Photos taken of the aftermath have also been used to try to incite feelings of guilt and horror. Photographs of the Berlin Wall coming down would usher in an era of optimism and confidence.

Also, photography became a medium of color as Kodak and other companies worked to develop color-capturing cameras instead of the black-and-white negatives that earlier cameras had saved.

In addition to still photography, motion photography became more and more ubiquitous after WWII. While moving pictures had been around prior to the war, after the war, the television and the movie theater became icons of Americana.

Owing to Moore’s Law and advances in technology, cameras have become ever more compact and powerful. As History Geek takes us back to our own time, stop to try to imagine a world where cameras are rare. Cameras today can be found in smartphones, in surveillance equipment in almost every store or office, in the hands of just about any tourist, attached to computers, and more. In less than two hundred years, cameras went from being rare objects handled only by the wealthy enthusiast to being commonplace objects that even children can use.

And now that we’re back to the present era, it’s time to get ready for another feature. Check back later this week to learn more about photography, cameras, and other things that we all think are cool!

— da Bird