Although photographs permeate daily culture, many people know little about the history of photography.
At UT's weekly Science Forum, Robert Heller, professor of journalism and electronic media, spoke to his audience about the history of photography during his lecture, "A Brief, Yet Incomplete History of Photojournalism."
The larger than expected audience of about 50 students, faculty and members of the public squeezed into a room at Thompson-Boling Arena to listen to the 45-minute presentation.
Heller traced the evolution of photography from the first attempt to capture an image during the first century AD, to the first permanent photograph in 1826, to the portable camera in the late 1800s, and finally to the switch from film to digital photography in the 1980s.
He emphasized the importance of the world's first still existing photograph taken by Joseph Niepce in 1826.
"It's one of the most important documents of all time, yet most people don't know much about it," he said.
Niepce's photograph is a grainy, black and white picture of the tops of French buildings.
"We take billions of pictures (every year), and all those pictures can be traced to (this) photograph," Heller marveled.
He lamented the ease with which we can quickly take low-quality and inartistic pictures today, but he acknowledged that these pictures can have sentimental value. He believes that to make a good picture, we must slow down and think about what we want to accomplish.
"Back in the early days, photography was very special," he told his audience. "Only a few people could do it. ... Now we can make a technically pretty good photograph that has no meaning at all to it, no artistry to it."
When asked what camera he would recommend during the question-and-answer portion of the presentation, Heller said that taking a good photograph has more to do with being a good photographer than having an expensive camera. He believes people wrongly assume that if they have an expensive camera, they can take great pictures.
"Now, everyone has a camera in their pocket," Heller stated. "At events, more people than not are photographing and, from my point of view, are missing out on what's actually in front of them. The result has been many more mediocre photographs than we've ever had before."
Heller earned bachelor's and master's degrees in photojournalism from Syracuse University. He has been teaching at UT since 1986.
Kelly Wilder, freshman in animal science, agreed that most students do not know very much about photography.
"I thought it would be interesting to learn a little more about the history of photography," Wilder said. "We see countless photographs every day, but most people don't know much about their origins."
The Science Forum will not be held this Friday due to Thanksgiving break. On Nov. 30, from noon to 1 p.m., in room C-D of Thompson-Boling Arena, Dr. Sue Hume, Clinical Associate Professor of Audiology & Speech Pathology, will present "Good Vibrations — Care and Use of the Professional Voice."