The World Through a Single Photo

World Photography Day is celebrated annually on August 19. It is an internationally recognized day for photographers "to share their world with the world" through a single photo.

The date of World Photography Day memorializes August 19, 1839, the date the French government released the daguerreotype patent making that photographic process "free to the world."

The First Photograph

The first permanent photographic image was created in the 1820s through a process called heliography. The process was invented by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce and had its origins in lithographic printmaking.

In heliography, a glass or metal plate is coated with a naturally occurring light-sensitive asphalt. When the plate is exposed to light, the asphalt hardens and remains behind after the plate is washed in solvent.

Niépce experienced his best results and was able to create the first photograph around 1826 or 1827 by using a pewter plate, the asphalt bitumen of Judea and a mixture lavender oil and white petroleum as his wash. The exposure time was at least 8 hours.

Ten years later in 1837, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre invented the daguerreotype, which became the most commonly used photographic process up to 1860.

From the Daguerreotype to Digital

Daguerreotypy involves polishing an iodine-sensitive sheet of silver-plated copper to a mirror finish, treating it with fumes to make the plate surface light sensitive and using a camera to expose the plate to light.

A daguerreotype is inflexible, heavy and very fragile. The image the plate holds is detailed and sharp but also vulnerable to scratches and other damage.

In 1861, Thomas Sutton, the first person to take a durable color picture, invented the single-lens reflex (SLR) camera.

A single-lens reflex camera uses a mirror and prism system to reflect an image through the lens enabling a photographer to see the image he wants to capture. The camera design "reflex" to the photographer what the camera is pointed at.

The first SLRs manufactured in the 1880s were large boxy cameras held at waist level by the photographer who covered himself with a large hood to keep out extra light. To capture an image, the photographer had to hold up and align a separate mirror with the prism glass in the camera as before opening the shutter.

As technology improved, SLRs became smaller, more mobile and eventually digital. They remain the most popular camera design used by photographers today.

The advent of camera phones and the ever-improving capabilities of smartphone cameras have made photography an anytime, everywhere activity. Photography is now approachable, convenient, portable, immediate and sharable. As a result more than 1 trillion photographs are taken each year, and hundreds of millions of photos are uploaded to social media each day.

Taking Pictures of Poverty

We work hard to portray the dignity of the poor in our photographs. Our imagery does not portray "the pornography of poverty," where poor men, women and children lose their dignity because a picture focuses overwhelmingly on the brutality of their condition or environment.

The pictures we take of poverty show the dignity and hope that live within the poor despite the oppression poverty inflicts upon them.

This World Photography Day we share our world, the world of the children and families we serve in Jesus’ name, with you.

A girl jumping in the air
A girl in a pink dress covers her mouth with her hand as she laughs
A girl in a pink dress whispers in the ear of another girl wearing a pink dress
A girl looking back over her shoulder
A girl in a pink dress sitting in front of a stack of wood
A group of children sitting on the ground with their backs to a corrugated metal well
A boy wearing a white t-shirt and a white construction hard hat
A boy in a soccer jersey balances a soccer ball on his head
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Famous Quotes About Photography

"There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment."
  — Robert Frank, photographer

"It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are."
  — Paul Caponigro, photographer

"If the photographer is interested in the people in front of his lens, and if he is compassionate, it’s already a lot. The instrument is not the camera but the photographer."
  — Eve Arnold, photojournalist

"Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera."
  — Yousuf Karsh, photographer

"Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field."
  — Peter Adams, photographer


"In photography there are no shadows that cannot be illuminated."
  — August Sander, photographer

"Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like."
  — David Alan Harvey, photographer

"You don’t take a photograph, you make it."
  — Ansel Adams, photographer

"A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it. It is, in a word, effective."
  — Irving Penn, photographer

"Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures."
  — Don McCullin, photojournalist
World Photography Day - Compassion International