In Our Time – The Invention of Photography

I listened to a 40-minute edition of the long-running BBC Radio 4 programme, “In Our Time” which was a discussion on the invention and history of photography.

I found the programme very revealing as I’ve previously had next to no knowledge about the history of my subject. Coming straight into the world of photography with a digital camera, I’ve had little-to-no real interaction with pre-21st-Century technology and style.

I learned that the first ‘wave’ of photographers were mostly interested in the technical aspects of photography. It was the second wave of amateurs that pushed for the medium to be an accepted art form. Photography was seen as “the medium of the experimental1 at the time, and wasn’t yet widely considered to be art- more as a means of documentation. This was particularly true of the French, whose government bought the very first technology from an inventor and sought to document every historical monument in the country.

Photography has been “completely transformative” to many aspects of life. From the proliferation of instant news photography and documentation to important additions to the world of astronomy.

The most interesting thing for me was finding out about the many different early techniques and how they jostled for supremacy. That the owner of the ‘best’ technology in England decided to franchise it meant that photography was prohibitively expensive to begin with. This held our country back behind France and America as they saw popularity of the new medium shoot up.

The programme has given me a greater sense of the overall medium and the advances in society and technology that have led to me and my digital camera today.


1 In Our Time (2016) BBC Radio 4, 7 July [Online]. Available at (Accessed 12 August 2016).

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