How to Look at Cameras

© Copyright 2017 Ummehani Pathan, Ryerson University

Now more than ever, cameras are a part of our daily lives whether we’re using them to capture important moments or by looking at their byproducts that surround us, photographs. They are used to capture memories for keepsake purposes, picture objects for advertisements, and scripted moments for entertainment consumption on motion-film.

History of the Camera

The first camera was invented in 1000 AD by an Iranian scientist named Ibn Al-Haytham and it was used for scientific purposes like watching solar eclipses. A couple of centuries later in 1839, the Daguerreotype was invented by Louis Daguerre and it was the first device that could transfer images from the lens onto a sensitised plate. The image transferring process was tedious, as it used a silver-plated copper sheet, iodine vapor to give it a light-sensitive coating and then then image was finally developed in mercury vapor (Masoner).  

Initially, cameras were upscale items, available only to the privileged who could afford the luxury of having a physical image of themselves, besides a painting which was less objective at capturing reality.

In 1889, George Eastman invented the first portable Kodak. This camera’s focal settings were fixed, meaning the user did not have to adjust settings like the shutter speed. These easy-to-use cameras were affordable and although users still had to send film rolls to a factory to get their pictures developed, it was the first mass-produced model (

"Unknown". Untitled Photograph featuring Nikon AF-5 DX Camera (2016) Light n Focus. February 12, 2017. ©
“Unknown”. Untitled Photograph featuring Nikon AF-5 DX DSLR Camera (2016) Light n Focus. February 12, 2017. ©

As time went on, technology became more advanced and cameras evolved as well. The inner hardware became smaller, making it easy for users to carry such intricate devices around with them. Inside the first DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera invented in 1991, there were multiple mirrors aligned to either allow light to enter from a camera lens into the viewfinder so the photographer can see what the image will look like, or reflect the light so the shutter clicks. After that, the camera processor writes it into a memory card all under 0.1 seconds! (Mansurov)

Contemporary Use

Cameras allow humans to do what makes us human, communicate, love and share stories. We can use cameras to take family photos, however they can also be used to raise awareness on subjects you may have the luck of capturing. For example, if you witness police brutality on the streets, you could easily pull out your smartphone and capture this violation to hopefully bring justice to the victim and shine a light on something our eyes have become desensitized to and invoke change. In this way, cameras succeed in being a token for our memory and help us share the important stories.

Cameras capture the visual and surface of the world. This has drastically influenced our lifestyles through social networking and orchestrating your online identity. For example, the framing and composure of a photo can easily be manipulated to illustrate a certain lifestyle. However what you capture and view on-screen is not always an accurate representation of reality. Although photos portray a still-life version of object/person x, images are superficial and they can alter our view of reality, others and ultimately ourselves. Capture the golden moments of your choice or use cameras as a tool to advocate for equality, either way you hold a tool that captures the world from your perspective.


Works Cited

Elkins, James. How to use your eyes. Routledge, 2009. Academia.

Mansurov, Nasim. “What is a DSLR (Digital SLR) Camera?” Photography Life, Photography Life, 21 Mar. 2017,

Masoner, Liz. “Explore the Major Advances in the History of Photography.” The Spruce, 10 Feb. 2017,

“Milestone Timeline of Kodak Accomplishments.” Kodak, Eastman Kodak Company,

“Nikon D3300 Replacement this Year Itself?” Light n Focus, Light n Focus, 6 Sept. 2016,

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.