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Refocusing America: American Society Through the Camera's Lens, 1945-2000
Unformatted Document Text:  that set the stage for photographic success. Eight years later, the first photograph was taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. `History’ did not simply progress from here. Desires for more advanced methods of photography fueled worldwide competition, culminating in the rivalry between France’s Jacques Mandé Daguerre and Great Britain’s William Henry Fox Talbot. The 1839 announcement of Daguerre’s photographic process, his namesake, the daguerrotype, ended the contest. While Talbot’s calotype, though in many ways more efficient than the daguerrotype, shortly followed Daguerre’s invention, the calotype never gained the eminence of its predecessor. Adopted by both Europeans and Americans alike, the daguerrotype proved an awe-inspiring innovation. The American Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph, was so taken by the daguerrotype that he reported to his brother that “the exquisite minuteness of the delineation cannot be conceived. No painting or engraving ever approached it.” 3 For the next twenty years, the invention was the most popular form of photography, primarily for lack of better alternatives. Though the calotype made photographic reproduction considerably easier, Talbot was highly protective of his invention, charging fees to those wishing to use it, subsequently reducing its potential appeal. Although the daguerrotype was not particularly well-suited for action shots nor mass-produced photos, early photojournalists attempted to utilize the invention to capture natural disasters, accidents, protests, and even war--elements of American life that largely comprise the categorization I have labeled `social,’ which will be discussed in the following section. Succeeding the primitive daguerrotype and calotype were the collodion glass wet plate and later, dry, flexible film developed by George Eastman of Eastman Kodak in 1888. While the former process combined the advantages of both the daguerrotype and calotype, the fragility of the wet plate proved it particularly prone to breakage. Despite this inherent problem, photography was used more widely, enabling the memorialization of the Civil War, as well as popular depictions of westward migration and 3 Fred S. Parrish, Photojournalism: An Introduction (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2002) 313.

Authors: Maurantonio, Nicole.
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that set the stage for photographic success. Eight years later, the first photograph was taken by Joseph
Nicéphore Niépce.
`History’ did not simply progress from here. Desires for more advanced methods of photography
fueled worldwide competition, culminating in the rivalry between France’s Jacques Mandé Daguerre and
Great Britain’s William Henry Fox Talbot. The 1839 announcement of Daguerre’s photographic process,
his namesake, the daguerrotype, ended the contest. While Talbot’s calotype, though in many ways more
efficient than the daguerrotype, shortly followed Daguerre’s invention, the calotype never gained the
eminence of its predecessor.
Adopted by both Europeans and Americans alike, the daguerrotype proved an awe-inspiring
innovation. The American Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph, was so taken by the daguerrotype
that he reported to his brother that “the exquisite minuteness of the delineation cannot be conceived. No
painting or engraving ever approached it.”
3
For the next twenty years, the invention was the most
popular form of photography, primarily for lack of better alternatives. Though the calotype made
photographic reproduction considerably easier, Talbot was highly protective of his invention, charging
fees to those wishing to use it, subsequently reducing its potential appeal.
Although the daguerrotype was not particularly well-suited for action shots nor mass-produced
photos, early photojournalists attempted to utilize the invention to capture natural disasters, accidents,
protests, and even war--elements of American life that largely comprise the categorization I have labeled
`social,’ which will be discussed in the following section.
Succeeding the primitive daguerrotype and calotype were the collodion glass wet plate and later,
dry, flexible film developed by George Eastman of Eastman Kodak in 1888. While the former process
combined the advantages of both the daguerrotype and calotype, the fragility of the wet plate proved it
particularly prone to breakage. Despite this inherent problem, photography was used more widely,
enabling the memorialization of the Civil War, as well as popular depictions of westward migration and
3
Fred S. Parrish, Photojournalism: An Introduction (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2002)
313.


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