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The rise of Impressionism can be seen as a reaction to the newly established medium of photography by artists. In the same way that everyday life was focused on photography, photography also influenced the impressionist's interest in capturing 'snapshots' of ordinary people doing everyday work. The taking of fixed or still images provided a new medium for capturing reality, and changed people in general, and artists in particular, as they saw the world, and created new artistic opportunities.

Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi / Unsplash

Learning from the science of photography, artists developed a range of new painting techniques. And, instead of competing with the picture's ability to record 'a moment of truth', impressionists, such as Monet, felt free to represent what they saw in a completely different way - one Focusing more on light, color and movement in a way. This was not possible with photography. Over time, these subjective observations have become much more widely accepted as works of art, although initially they were considered 'sketches' or 'incomplete'.

Early photography

In 1839, Daguerre's disclosure of the secret process he used to record an image on a silver sheet of copper was the first practical and permanent way to acquire it (known as daguerreotype). , Which led to the invention of the photo. To become one of the most popular inventions of the century.

By 1849, about 100,000 Parisians take their photographs every year. (Interestingly, the way we use Photoshop today, customers often requested that their photo be touched again to hide perceived defects or to add color.)

Daguerreotypes were unique and non-replicable, but with the introduction of carte day visits (visiting or calling cards) in the 1850s, photographic images could be cheaply and easily distributed. There were cartes de visite prints, usually, albumen, affixed to a card measuring 6 x 10 cm. This standard format was patented in 1854 by a French photographer, André Adolhe Désidée. Through the use of a sliding plate holder and a camera with four lenses, eight negatives could be captured on the same 8 10 x 10 ″ glass plate, which allowed eight prints to be made each time to print negative. The Cartes de Waite were the most popular from the 1860s to the 1890s, largely coinciding with Impressionism.

Daguerreotype of a single man found in my grandfather's office. Not sure who he is. But it is a pristine example of daguerreotypes of the era.
Photo by Mick Haupt / Unsplash

Influence on artists

Some artists found that they lost the commission to paint small intricate drawings in favor of people who liked studio photographs. However, for others it became an inspiration not only for new ways of composing their artworks, but also painting using more experimental techniques.

The photographs (as they do today) aided the painting process. Many artists found that they could do away with the model's tedious seating and instead used both short sittings and photographs to illustrate the portraits. Portable cameras can also be taken out to record the landscape - allowing the painting process to be completed in the studio. In the early stages of camera development, long-term exposure was required with a camera to capture the image, creating 'shutter-drag', allowing for beautiful fluid movement and beautifully blurred selections .

Some artists, such as Degas, tried to recreate this effect to soften the overall painting. One of the most famous photographers of the mid-1800s was Nadar (Gaspard Félix Tournachon) who established the most fashionable portrait studio in Paris - it was here that in 1874 the Impressionists held their first exhibition. As the medium developed, photographers such as Aderwid Muybridge experimented with camera stills, or closed, movement. Stopping action was a fascinating new concept. Prior to photographic stop-action, it was difficult to hold muscles in a tense situation, or for example, a horse's gait in mid-step.

Edgar degas

Edgar Degas was an impressionist so comfortable with this new ability to capture an instant that he also pursued photography as a creative outlet. There are many examples of how he used his knowledge of photography in his art, which you can see in his paintings of horses and race horses.

For example, he was surprised that Muybridge's photographs have proved that a horse's foot moves in a rolling sequence, not in a "hobbyhorse" couple, which were most artist favorites. In pictures by Degas you can also see the technique of harvesting, selecting only a portion of a subject that can be incorporated into the picture plane, which allows for a more intimate relationship with the viewer, because This creates the illusion that there is a large scene just outside the viewer's view.

Harvesting became an important composition technique adopted by many artists. Photography, far from limiting the appeal of paintings, provided artists with new perspectives, and then encouraged them to translate photographic techniques into their work, allowing them more of a life of vitality and intimacy on everyday life Enabled to capture.