TABLE OF CONTENTS

AT FIRST SIGHT: A GLANCE AT THE DISCOVERY AND EARLY YEARS OF PHOTOGRAPHY

LIGHT HAS SO OFTEN, and in so many cultures, been used as a metaphor for higher knowledge and spiritual well-being that you might think it was some rare element, like lustrous gold. Yet light is quite literally everyday—a universal medium basic to life, a gift so commonplace that we take it for granted, the way the fish takes for granted the sea. The richness and the ordinariness of light coexist in photography. Beginning as theory in the 19th century, the medium has evolved as both esthetic and practical, so practical, in fact, that we risk here another comparison to the fish swimming uncritically in the sea of photographic images. Catching shadows that distill samples of the passing illuminations, the impartial lens transcribes indiscriminately whatever is put before it. Yet the pictures that result depend on the photographer’s visual intelligence to focus our attention (and intention).

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