In a day and age when technology evolves overnight and instant gratification is a common expectation, it’s easy to lose touch with the history of it all – the origin of the inventions that we take for granted today; the gadgets that have transformed from everyday tools to cultural staples, without which we seem to lose relevance. How do you feel when you forget your cell phone at home? Completely naked and lost? Most do, especially since being without a phone now means being without a camera. How would we post our daily Instagram and Facebook updates, broadcasting to the world what we’re eating, who we’re with and where we’re exploring, documenting every other moment through these miniature lenses?


Flashback to the early 19th century, when curious minds were assembling and experimenting with the concept of “drawing with light,” the literal translation of the word “photography.” The earliest dark rooms housed the “camera obscura,” a primitive projector that utilized an external light source to cast images onto paper. This process was so revolutionary – shocking, even – that many deemed it a frightening form of sorcery. Fortunately, there were those whose fascination overruled their fear of the unknown. These brave individuals took the application of light to capture images to the next level; the first permanent image was produced by Nicephore Niepce in 1826, followed by Louis Daguerre’s development of the daguerreotype in 1839, the very process that would make history as the first publicly announced and commercially recognized photographic process. By 1854, carte-de-visite’s were patented and would grow into the first form of trading cards between friends, a practice that involved collecting and swapping images of high-profile figures and celebrities.

Within the letters and original photographs of this comprehensive collection lies the first-person perspective of an age, expressing raw, genuine reactions as they met with their own likenesses for the first time. Included are exceptionally rare pieces of correspondence from Mathew Brady, perhaps one of the most famous early photographers who is credited with documenting the American Civil War; a lengthy letter from one of the most notable pianists from the Romantic era, Clara Schumann; a gorgeous missive from Salvation Army founder, Maud Booth, and a fantastic response from the American polar explorer, Adolphus Greely.


These are just a few of the illuminating selections that color this varied assortment, each piece serving as a physical and emotional mile marker in the social evolution and impact of the first captured image.

For more information and to browse the current pieces please view our Curated Collection:
Social Impact of Photography | Curated Collection

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JG Autographs