The Development of Photography
Trace the evolution of photography from the earliest investigations of the science of optics, through experiments with early cameras and printing techniques. See the variety of formats through examples of daguerrotypes, calotypes, cyanotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes and others, leading up to the creation of modern color photography as we know it.
Explore the history of one of the most common types of photographs: the portrait. From formal studio shots to simple snapshots, the best portraits capture more than just a likeness. Discover how they mark a moment in time, create drama, evoke sympathy, inspire whimsy, and reflect the spirit and character of humanity.
Discover history as it unfolds through documentary photography. Explore the early American frontier through images of westward expansion. Experience moments in history from world-changing events to everyday street scenes. Learn about social issues of the past and present from poverty, to child labor, to inequality through the powerful images created to document them.
Landscapes, Wildlife, and the Built Environment
Be inspired by photographs that reveal the beauty, wonder, and fascination of the world around us. Travel to distant lands and rugged wildernesses. Explore the habitats of wildlife or watch as the urban landscape grows. Trace the history of techniques that bring the world into focus like the use of telephoto lenses or panoramic views.
Watch as photography goes beyond showing the world as it is and becomes an art form. Learn through examples the evolution of artistic photography from early images that mimic paintings to those that use abstract expressions and experimental techniques. Take part in the debate over photography as an art form from the writings of early photographers through modern controversies.
Photography in Science and Technology
Uncover photographs that document the scientific process. From early studies of animal and human motion to modern microscopic imagery, from the geology of the Earth to the surface of the moon, discover how photography has played a crucial role in the sciences.
Personal Cameras, Citizen Photographers
Find out how the personal camera made its way into the American citizen’s hands as it became smaller, less expensive, and easier to use. Trace the influence and innovation of companies like Eastman Kodak and Polaroid. See the rise of photography as a hobby through camera clubs and classes. Witness the place that photographs hold in our shared memories through family snapshots and social media shares.
Topic curated by Gretchen Gueguen, Digital Public Library of America