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Historic Photographs Part III - The Rise of the Snapshot

Posted by: Nadia Kousari, Collections Specialist on Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 12:00:00 am

old snapshot photo album

We all have that special photograph album that we treasure. Perhaps it includes images of birthdays, vacations, and snapshots of special events. Have you ever thought about how the snapshot came to be? Our digital cameras and prints are easy, but photography wasn’t always such a breeze.

Prior to the 1880s the photographic process was difficult and cumbersome, but in the late 1880s Kodak introduced gelatin silver roll film cameras. The use of gelatin silver made the process of photography faster and easier. As a result, the rise of the amateur photographer endured as photography was now accessible for nearly anyone who wanted to take photographs. This accessibility led to the rise of vernacular photography, or the idea of the snapshot, placing more importance on the subject matter, which was generally family and friends, rather than the composition of the photograph.

A plethora of snapshots invaded our living rooms! What does one do with that huge collection of family photos? Organize them in a album, of course. Consequently, photo albums became popular cultural objects allowing the amateur photographer to display their photographic handiwork. So, the next time you pull out that album, think of how your photographs will be viewed in the future. What will your snapshots say about you?

This snapshot is from an album in the Minnetrista Heritage Collection.

    
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