When we think of awareness days we tend to think of those concerning illness, poverty, gender, sexuality, disadvantaged people, or the environment. Yet there are just as many that focus on the celebration of human civilisation, literature, the arts, and science. 19th August is World Photo Day. The tagline of the organising body is “Inspiring a Better World Through Photography”.
An Early History of the Camera
While the first photographic camera was invented in the early 19th century, the concept of creating a still image goes back at least 1500 years before this. Many ancient Chinese, European, and Arab scholars theorised about how to create such an image. Using substances such as silver salts and the camera obscura – a device with a pinprick hole through which images could cast a shadow with a light placed behind them.
The first actual still image camera was invented in 1826 and took eight hours to form. That’s a far cry from our camera phones today with shutter speeds recorded in milliseconds and a produced image appearing in the viewfinder in under a second. Image creation took another leap forward with the Daguerreotype that improved the quality but still took a long time to produce an image. For several decades, it was the common standard in personal and commercial use.
It was Daguerre’s design that led to an explosion in designs, technology, methods, and lower cost that helped photography become a growth technology through the 19th century. The traditional image of the Victorian family coming together for a photograph and seeing a flash and a bang was not a Daguerreotype image, but it did use the same technology and developed thanks to his method.
Why World Photo Day?
It all seems a little frivolous to celebrate the birth of the ability to capture a single moment in time, but the idea behind World Photo Day is anything but frivolous. It’s a celebration of the technology and what it has done for us, but it’s also about bringing people together to share images of parts of the world and moments in time that not everybody is able to share.
World Photo day is “the power of photography to inspire positive impact in our communities”. The desire is to bring together photographers around the globe by connecting local communities. The organisers believe that photographs have the power to change the world for the better by presenting a first-hand documented account of the events they present. It is no coincidence that 19th August is also World Humanitarian Day. This is a UN awareness day to give thanks to aid workers and those who selflessly put themselves in danger to help those in danger.
World Photo Day Competition
As well as a number of events marking this important day, World Photo Day offers a competition open to everyone everywhere to submit any relevant photo for each category. There are six categories: Street/city view, landscape, people, from above, animals/wildlife, open. Each year has a specially selected charity benefitting from the money generated from the project in Canberra in Australia, the city of WPD’s birth. The chosen charity this year is Cerebral Palsy Canberra.
That doesn’t mean the competition is open only to Australians or Canberra residents. Throughout the year, the organisers have been putting up some of their favourite submissions from around the world of street festivals, landscapes, geological formations and powerful sunsets. All of which symbolise the wonder and beauty of the planet on which we live.