“It is time, then, for it [photography] to return to its true duty, which is to be the servant of the sciences and arts— but the very humble servant, like printing or shorthand, which have neither created nor supplemented literature. Let it hasten to enrich the tourist’s album and restore to his eye the precision which his memory may lack; let it adorn the naturalist’s library, and enlarge microscopic animals; let it even provide information to corroborate the astronomer’s hypotheses; in short, let it be the secretary and clerk of whoever needs an absolute factual exactitude in his profession—up to that point nothing could be better. Let it rescue from oblivion those tumbling ruins, those books, prints and manuscripts which time is devouring, precious things whose form is dissolving and which demand a place in the archives of our memory—— it will be thanked and applauded.”
Charles Baudelaire – Salon de 1859
I’ve been reading a very interesting book called “The Invention of photography – The first fifty years” by Thames & Hudson. Very interesting coverage, not so much of the history of the technology but of the personalities and then perceptions at the time.
At that time there was much debate on whether phtography could even be considered art, and the excerpt above is from an article by Baudelaire (you can read the complete article here, it’s worth a read and has many other little nuggets) in 1859. Although the article itself is arguing that photography has its place and will not supersede art, I found the excerpt above very insighful, especially in today’s context of digital preservation and archiving, and touching on ideas like macro!