It is almost impossible to imagine what it felt like, 175 years ago, to see a photograph for the first time. The images were described as "miraculous," "divine perfection," "a little bit of magic realized." Since then, artists and scientists, explorers and advertisers, war correspondents and first-time parents have taken up the camera for myriad purposes, and we are now bombarded each day by more photographic images than the inventors of the medium likely saw in their lifetimes.
The shift in our time from analog to digital photography feels to many people like a major upheaval, but it is part of a long continuum of change: The daguerreotype gave way to the paper print, tripod-mounted view cameras and glass negatives were replaced by handheld cameras with roll film, and color prints gradually gained favor over black-and-white. In every era, artists have exploited and expanded the changing technology of photography for expressive ends.
With more than 30,000 prints in the MFAH photography collection, spanning the history of photography, the story of the evolving history of photographic techniques and artistic styles can be told countless ways. Malcolm Daniel takes participants inside his new exhibition A History of Photography, on view through Feb. 22. The exhibition is the first installment of an ongoing installation that rotates every four months in order to showcase treasures in the museum's photography collection, to tell the story of the medium over and over again in slightly different ways and, in the process, to familiarize himself with the renowned collection built by retiring curator Anne Wilkes Tucker.
A reception and docent-led tours follow the talk.