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Why Documentary?


Well. Let's take a journey on the history of photography...




based on the Greek φῶς (phos), (genitive: phōtós) meaning "light", and γραφή (graphê), meaning "drawing, writing",

together meaning "drawing with light".


We can thank Joseph Nicephore Niepce for kicking off photography in the early 1800s. By the late 1830's...commercially available products were available. They only took minutes of exposure and this is when it's recognized that photography really began. From hours, to minutes, to seconds...photography's technology was booming. Some very early examples:

Why so solemn? Oh...that's because you had to sit still for a significant amount of time. No blinking!

Try holding that smile for minutes and keep it looking natural! Make sure your baby doesn't move! Totally practical....right? Now you probably can only afford one picture of yourself in your whole life. You want to be as high class looking as possible...right? Dress your best!

By the later 1800s...technology improved, prices went down and families started to have more access to photography. 

 Columbia Historical Society - Image of family dated 1890s.

Columbia Historical Society - Image of family dated 1890s.

What can you tell about this family? 

Problem not much.

But records show this is the Schmid family! They owned a popular pet store in Washington, D.C.! This image was taken in a studio surrounded by props. Just imagine what it'd be like to have some images of the whole family working in the pet store? An image showing Grandma's relationship to the children. An image showing Edward Schmid's connection to his boys. Now those would tell a story.


One of the first family snapshots.

Thanks to the Museum of American History...we're able to see a small glimpse into life in the late 1800's. This image was taken with one of the first Kodak cameras for personal use! Prior to this time, photography was only done by photographers in studios or mock studios.

Doesn't this image tell 100 more stories than those above?

Now we're getting somewhere. What story does these images tell?