Happy World Photography Day! A Look Back on Its Origins and Impact

Happy World Photography Day! Today is a special day that celebrates the art, science, and history of photography. Here’s a look at how it all began and the impact photography plays in our lives today.

Celebrated on 19th August, World Photography Day is an annual worldwide celebration of the visual medium that plays an integral part in how we see the world around us. To pay homage to photography means looking back at history, celebrating the achievements and possibilities of the present, and looking forward to what it has yet to bring to the world.

Why was August 19th chosen as the date? It goes back to August 19, 1839, the day the French government officially announced the invention of the daguerreotype — a photographic process that was developed by Louis Daguerre, a French artist and photographer — and made it freely available to the rest of the world. For the first time, people were given the ability to capture and preserve history instead of relying on lengthy and imperfect methods such as painting.

The first authenticated image of Abraham Lincoln, a daguerreotype of him as U.S. Congressman-elect in 1846, attributed to Nicholas H. Shepard. Library of Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

From that point on, photography processes and tools have continually developed and become more easily accessible. We have gone from pioneering processes with chemistry on plates to easily loadable films to completely digital photographs.

Gone are the days when camera owners would be required to wait days to receive their captured photographs; today we have access to instant images that can be immediately shared and viewed by people all across the world, showing the beauty of the natural world, current events, cultural differences, artistic expression, and more.

It is all too easy to forget the journey that the photography process has taken but there are many “firsts” in the photography world, with some of the most notable ones shared by Data Search in the video below. Photography has helped the world document many scientific, political, and cultural milestones that contribute to a deeper understanding of our past and help build more informed paths to take in the future.

Although photography tools weren’t always accessible to the general public, major breakthroughs over the decades have introduced photography into the everyday lives of those who simply wanted to capture memories and special moments spent with friends and family, not just photography professionals. This has led to photography being enjoyed now by amateurs and professionals alike, resulting in a prediction by Rise Above Research that the global number of images taken will soar to 1.4-trillion photos this year.

In today’s world, photography helps us learn more about events, places, and people from different parts of the world that we might not ever personally encounter in our lifetimes. Photojournalists, street photographers, documentary photographers, and every everyday folk contribute to sharing rich visual stories.

In the art world, fine art, still life, and portrait photographers give the audience a glimpse into their creative minds and ideas, while working commercial professionals help businesses share their brand identity and products with the customers.

Photography can also enhance the physical and mental well-being of anyone who is willing to give it a go. There are no rules in personal photography and all you need access to is a camera of choice — whether it is a smartphone, an old film camera, a modern DSLR camera, a new mirrorless camera, or anything else that is available — even a soda can with photo paper inside.

A simple photowalk, either alone or in a group, in your local area or farther afield, can relieve stress and turn the attention towards capturing mundane moments in interesting compositions. The process of getting in “the zone”, where the mind is intensely focused on a particular activity, is beneficial to both amateurs and professionals. All it takes is picking one or a few ideas for the photowalk or simply capturing anything that brings satisfaction.

Turning the camera on the people close to you also creates memories for the future, creating a window that future generations can look back through, the same way long-lost photographic family archives from decades ago are appreciated today. Using a smartphone or a camera, and with the guidance of a few simple tips, photographing children or family members at home today will create images that will be cherished for years.

Similarly, picking an activity that brings pleasure, such as traveling to other countries or enjoying the serenity of the landscape, and combining that with photography of any skill level can make the experience unforgettable and rewarding.

Once you have captured photographs you’re happy with, you can consider editing the images and enjoying them either through sharing with others or printing them out for personal viewing pleasure.

Opportunities and ideas in the photography world are endless, which makes it such a great visual medium in which everyone can find something that appeals to them, irrespective of their experience or equipment.


Image credits: Stock photos licensed from Depositphotos

Robert G. Mull

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