The history of photography from the perspective of its technology is presented by The George Eastman House with the release of a 12-part video series. Photographic Processes Series are available on YouTube and it starts with the silhouette and traces photography’s development through daguerreotypes, cyanotypes, Kodachrome, and right up to digital.
“We make photographs in a different way from the way we used to, but we make them for the same reasons,” independent photography curator Alison Nordström says in the Photographic Processes Series. “I would argue that a 19th-century Victorian family album has exactly the same purpose as the 200 pictures of your kid that you carry on your phone.”
Beginning with 18th-century innovations like the camera obscura that inspired 19th-century innovators like William Henry Fox Talbot with his negative and positive photographic process, the dominant voice in the video series is that of Mark Osterman, a process historian who also demonstrates or reenacts the historic techniques. He explains that despite his deep knowledge of often obsolete processes, he loves digital, among other reasons because it serves as a reminder of the absence of a physical contact with the photograph.
“Artists have come to a point where many of them are saying, ‘I feel like the machine is in control and I want to have my hands in this object’,” Osterman explains in the series. “When the finished object is something other than a computer screen it harkens back to the day when photography was a craft. It’s not just about the image, although the image is king. It’s about the object itself, and you made that object.” Below you can watch the complete Photographic Processes Series. The George Eastman House also regularly hosts workshops on many of these processes, which are listed on their website.