Learning Photography From the Past

During the film days of photography, adjustments had to be done manually with dials before a photo was taken. Then a frame can only be checked for flaws after it has been developed into a negative or on photo paper. Photos from a bygone era can be bought in books and viewed conveniently on the net. Whats more important is studying why a photograph made it into a magazine.

Life magazine is now online and have some of the most comprehensive photographs on display-on the net, of course. My favorite section is Photo Timelines where most of the 20th century is divided into convenient years. My favorite is the 1920’s- History of the camera created by katetaylor808.

Study and learn. The best way to figure out a photograph is to stare at it and think like a photographer in those trying days of dialing in aperture, shutter speed, ISO and film type.


From Amazon.com click image to go to page

Another source that I re-read every few years or so is ‘Slightly Out of Focus’, by Robert Capa. Capa’s photographs can also be found in Life’s pages.

Here’s an excerpt from ‘Slightly Out of Focus’:

“Seven days later, I learned that the pictures I had taken on “Easy Red” were the best of the invasion. But the excited darkroom assistant, while dryin the negatives, had turnind on too much heat and the emulsions had melted and run down before the eyes of the London office. Out of one hundred and six pictures in all, only eight were salvaged. The captions under the heat-blurred pictures read that Capa’s hands were badly shaking.” -p.152, Chapter IX Summer 1944.

It’s a great read on Capa’s adventures throughout WWII in the European front. Not only do we get a glimpse of hardships of life in war but even better was how hard it was through a photographers eyes.

Here’s a link to the photographs in the book from Magnum Photos. Enjoy the links and when shooting on location always bring a spare CF card or back up on a portable drive. Wouldn’t want anyone to relive Mr. Capa’s emotions after finding out what had happened to the photos that were captured on the first hours D-Day. The photographs would possibly have been one of the most iconic sets of images had they survived.