Permanent still life

A Journey to AR Shift

Part 2

Welcome back to the second installment of our journey through art, time and augmented reality. This week, we will briefly delve into the evolution of the captured image — from the first photo to the first moving picture. We will continue to explore those first few steps in mankind’s fascination with the manipulation of its own reality.


As we evolved and developed beyond the use of fire and cave drawings, the main purpose of art expanded beyond communication. Art became the medium of entertainment, thoughts and emotional provocation. The Greeks and Romans created an industry of theatre to amaze and inspire its populations. Though, the middle ages brought dark times to Europe, the Renaissance led to the rebirth of secular theatre. Decorations, costumes, and acrobatics became more and more complex and realistic. We sought to manipulate art to express our inner emotions.

For thousands of years art didn’t change drastically — of course, there was a constant evolution and even sometimes revolution — but one day something happened that changed the life of humanity up to that moment.

Somewhere between 1826 and 1827 Nicéphore Niépce, a french inventor, with a camera obscura and asphalt on a pewter plate, made one of the first photos in the world. He called it, “View from the Window at Le Gras”. Take a careful look — this is the beginning of the 19th century.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Twelve (or eleven) years later, Louis Daguerre made the first ever photograph of a person (actually two). The exposure time was about 10 minutes, so only these two men, from all the people and wagons in a very crowded street were captured. These two fellows likely did not know that they were to be immortalized for eternity. What’s more, we will probably never know their names. Thanks to modern technology, you can see how this place looks now (the photo is mirrored).

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In 1855, James Clerk Maxwell proposed a way of producing colour images based on the Young-Helmholtz theory that the normal human eye sees colour, because it’s inner surface is covered with millions of intermingled cone cells of three types. This method was used six years later by Thomas Sutton, who produced the world’s first permanent coloured photo. The very first coloured photos were made in the 1840s, but they faded away when they were exposed to light for viewing.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In spite of the successful demonstration of the technology, colour photography was mostly forgotten up until the 1890s. Although, there was one french inventor, Louis Arthur Ducos du Hauron, who patented several methods of colour photography. Below you can see one of his earliest colour photo of dating to 1877 called “View of Agen”, a town in France where he lived.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the beginning of the 20th century, a renowned Russian photographer Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky, who was also among the first people to who the Lumier brothers demonstrated their Autochrome technology, was granted the funds and permissions to document the Russian Empire using color photography. He used the method invented by Maxwell — the same one used by Sutton to make the photo of the ribbon.

Sergey traveled across all the empire creating as many as 15,000 negatives — he was one of the best in the world at the time and was the first one to take coloured photos in the Russian Empire — a portrait of Leo Tolstoy.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Yet even before colour photography became popular, we did something even more mesmerising. A simple curiosity led Leland Stanfor, the Governer of California in 1872, to hire Eadweard Muybridge, an english professional photographer, to carry out photographic experiments. The task was to determine if horses touched the ground with all their feet while trotting. Six years later he managed to accomplish it — and in so doing, created the world’s first moving picture. He used 24 glass-plate cameras in a line along the edge of the track. The shutter of each camera was triggered by a thread as the horse passed. He also invented a machine called a zoopraxiscope, which allowed him to project the motion pictures that he had made.

He also made motion pictures of other animals.

The question we would like to leave you with is this, could this collection of videos be mankind’s first experimentation with virtual reality? The world in the “video” is definitely not “real”, but it IS real! We now define Virtual Reality (VR) as:

“an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment.” — Margaret Rouse, 2009

Typically we associate VR with some form of wearable glass, that completely removes us from our own reality. However, isn’t any video or image captured and then manipuated in some way a form of Virtual or Augmented Reality? We would like to ask you, how do you augment or manipulate your reality?

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