Photography is an art form created by technology and continues to be shaped by technological advances.

It's invention in 1826 presented new possibilities to capture the likeness of buildings, landscapes and people. In early years of photography, cameras were large and cumbersome and chemical processes were complex. Continual technological innovation has constantly transformed the nature of photographic image making to become more accessible and affordable. Then and now, photography is used across myriad contexts including recording family snapshots, capturing local news, as well as scientific, medical and forensic applications. Photography is praised for its purported truthfulness, accuracy, clarity and ability to render fine detail.

Photography is also an artistic medium encompassing realist, Pictorialist and Modernist modes of representation. Pictorialism emerged in the late nineteenth century and was an approach to photography that positioned aesthetics above the realistic image. Pictorialist images are characterised by soft focus and subtle-toned atmospheric effects.

  • Investigate the changing nature of photography over time. Find photographs since the invention of photography and place them in chronological order. Scramble the order and place it as a challenge to your classmates.
  • Imagine the world without digital cameras. Stage a class debate for or against life with digital cameras.
  • What features does a camera need to have to define it as a camera?
  • Think about the essence of a photograph capturing the trace of something, how else can you do this? Think about frottage as a technique for example. What are all the thing that you can use to create an impression of something?
  • During the 1970s many art institutions in Australia began to collect photography for the first time. Debates ensued as to whether photography was considered art or whether it had a documentary function. What qualities does something need to be considered art?
  • Look at the selection of Pictoralist photographs below. What are the key characteristics that these images share? Using digital technologies, create your own Pictoralist image using these qualities as a starting point.
  • Choose a Pictoralist photograph. Write a short story or poem inspired by this image.