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A photo by Dorothea LangeA photo by Dorothea LangePhotography is the art of taking pictures with a camera. When photography was first invented in the 1820s and 30s, people questioned whether photography could be considered art, and painters both feared and admired the new technology. But over the next 50 years, photography became established as a new art form. Portrait photographers such as Annie Leibovitz and Henri Cartier-Bresson captured people’s personalities and the way they live, while photojournalists such as Dorothea Lange used the medium to tell important stories. Landscape photographers such as Ansel Adams depicted the beauty and power of nature. Photography also has an important role to play in science.

Painters and photography

The Boating Party by Mary CassattThe Boating Party by Mary CassattThe invention of photography had a huge influence on the world of painting. At first, painters were suspicious of photography, fearing that it would one day take over from painting and make their work irrelevant. But other painters saw it as a different way of capturing an image of the world around them.

Vincent Van Gogh (1853–90) and James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) argued that photography would never replace painting because it created only an accurate image of a subject, while a painting could capture emotions. 

Over time, painters began to accept photography, finding it useful for providing source material (photographs to draw from) or inspiration. In 1864, Leonida Caldesi published a book of photos of paintings in the National Gallery which enabled artists to study them without having to travel to London.

The word "snapshot" in photography is borrowed from a word used in hunting, meaning to shoot very quickly without taking time to aim.

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