I suppose it’s easy to assume that photography only really got going with the advent of ‘digital’ – the easy availability of photos taken on smartphones and tablets, and relatively cheap and easy-to-use point and shoot cameras has revolutionised photography for the ‘man-in-the-street’. What you see is very much what you get, and cloud photo-sharing sites make sharing photos so easy.
But photography as we know it – i.e. capturing an image, and being able to chemically or digitally reproduce it, has been going for close to 200 years now. The first photographic images were captured on sensitised paper placed in a primitive light tight box, with the image focussed using a simple lens. As with most things man-made, the process and equipment developed and was improved, but it wasn’t really until the 1940s and 1950s that photography was within the reach of a wider public – until then it was sufficiently complex and expensive to ensure it was mostly only practised by professionals who of course could command a high price for the photos they provided.
Box Brownie and folding cameras taking roll film, together with the advent of consumer oriented processing labs really reduced the cost of photography, and the widespread adoption of 35mm film (originally developed for the movie industry) and cheap Far-East produced cameras really opened up the opportunities for everyone to take their own photos.
Roll and 35mm film was relatively cheap, and labs would process and print your holiday snaps in a few days for less than £10.00. Enthusiasts were also catered for, with enlargements relatively reasonably priced. There was of course no way of knowing how or indeed whether your photos would turn out – there was always that moment of nervous anticipation when you picked your photos up from the lab, or they arrived by post!
Like most people, I love the immediacy of digital, the opportunity to re-shoot an image that doesn’t look quite right, the chance to enhance or improve it after the event, or to share a photo with friends or family. It doesn’t somehow have quite the ‘magic’ of film though does it?
These are just a small selection of my images from the ‘pre-digital’ age – all were taken on Fuji Velvia slide film on a 6x7cm Mamiya rangefinder camera and have been scanned to add them to this blog.