Social Imapct of Photography

Topics: Photography, Photograph, Image Pages: 8 (826 words) Published: August 24, 2014

1839 TO 2014
Consider a world

without photographic images…

...almost impossible to imagine!

Before photography,


written word


non-photographic illustrations

have always been


In many of the world’s major religions, pre-photographic illustrations have invariably played havoc with the human mind and heart.







‘dangerous’ …

In politics, images have always made governments very nervous because of their powerfully persuasive and propagandistic potentialities.

(In 1835 – before photography – the Emperor Louis-Philippe banned caricatures, describing them as ‘acts of violence’ too dangerous to go unchecked…)

Then along came the photographic image: swift, visceral, intense, realistic, and clothed in an authenticity unlike any mode of illustration before. Not even a masterpiece painting possessed the lifelike and painfully truthful nature so capable of producing responses resembling human reactions to actual sight of people, things, places and situations. If (as described) pen and line illustrations and painting and sculpture evoked varied and often violent responses from especially the Church and State, photographs made both these Institutions more nervous still.

Still today, photographs are feared by politicians. In South African Israeli and Chinese histories, not to speak of American and European ones, proves of this ‘nervousness’ (to put it mildly!) can be found.

Prohibitions against photographs testify directly to their power. Suppression works…

The existence of certain photographs in our own recent history have changed and re-directed the courses of whole nations.

Likewise, the absence of photographs can have great consequences. This is illustrated by the following: In India, in 1946, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the leader of the then Moslem League, was diagnosed, through X-ray photography, as having severe tuberculosis. He had only about two or three years to live… Yet, he swore his doctor to secrecy concerning the state of his health. The X-rays were locked away, and he continued his work towards the creation of the Moslem State of Pakistan, which he successfully accomplished in August of 1947. It is surmised that had his sickness become known (as borne out by the X-ray photographs) his political support might not have been strong enough to result in the establishment of Pakistan…

In this, the very late 20th century, we know full well (from first hand experience) the influence – both positive and negative – of photography.

In fact: almost like an addict is under the influence of his drug, so are we (as Citizens of the World) under the constant, unrelenting influence of photographs.

Photography came into a world that was already crazy about pictures and drove it positively ‘mad’. We have become collectively addicted. Photographs took up residence in our daily lives; they moved in, and they practically took over. It is now indeed impossible to imagine life without them…

Photographs sell newspapers and magazines. This is a truth that became evident already in 1842 with The Illustrated London News, the world’s first (at first non-photographic) illustrated magazine. It was a weekly magazine.

Others followed in vast numbers, so that when photography arrived, the scene was already set for its use. Until the 1890’s, all of the illustrations were lithographs and engravings, but from about this time onwards, the halftone, and photography took over. In one week in 1899, The Illustrated London News carried twenty-eight photographs and only nineteen drawings.

And this led to the inevitable happening: Photographs soon became superabundant, transient...
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