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We often hear of outlandish displays of art, often being sold for ridiculous prices. Interior design pieces, sculptures, and black and white framed art that are seemingly simple can fetch millions of dollars. If you’ve been keeping tabs on the news, you may have heard of the banana, which was taped to a wall at Art Basel in Miami Beach that sold for $120,000. This led to many people asking the question, “what really is considered art today?”. To some, this would definitely not be art, especially in the traditional sense. Others may argue that art is subjective, and can very well be anything as long as the artist and the viewer agree.

It might seem a bit ridiculous that people are even debating the validity of a banana as art. However, it is interesting to know that once even photographs were under the same scrutiny. Today most people would argue that photographs are very much their own genre of art. From portraits to animal photography, people have used cameras just as well as paintbrushes to express their artistic talents.

The Origin of Paintings

The earliest depictions of art that modern humans may consider are in the form of cave paintings. Sketches of ancient animals, people and plants were discovered on the walls of cave homes dating back to about 30,000 to 10,000 B.C. These paintings and sketches were preserved for centuries thanks to them being sealed up and kept safe from the elements. Just like modern artists, cave dwellers made paintings based on what they saw around them and what images they wanted to preserve.

As the years went by and humanity got more sophisticated, so did our art. As Egypt developed to be home to one of the first civilizations of mankind, it also developed its own art. Paintings, sketches, and sculptures depicting scenes from life, gods, and mythology graced tombs and pyramids. Their ancient techniques involved using a kind of watercolor paint on limestone walls. Another method required cutting outlines of designs into stone walls and painting the grooves with watercolors. This would then evolve into ancient Greeks decorated their temples and palaces with mural paintings. They would also start the practice of painting portraits. 

The fall of the Roman empire and the rise of Christianity would bring a new era of art with it. 

Painters saw a new surge in their trade as they were commissioned by the Church to create frescoes and mosaics. These painters used their art to tell the story of Christianity. We would then see a shift with the Italian Renaissance in the 14th century. At the time Italians were moving into a golden age of art and literature. Their painters were inspired by the sculptures of the Greeks and Romans before them. We can then fast forwards through a few more centuries of art styles and deviations before seeing the American art scene of the 20th century. Prior to this time, it had been mostly portraits and landscapes inspired by European styles. After World War II concluded, the United States became the global epicenter for painting. Artists like Jackson Pollock would create bold new styles like action painting or abstract expressionism. 

On the other hand, some artists would choose to lean towards the other end of the spectrum and pursue realism. Artists like Andy Warhol would study mundane objects like soup cans, things you may not notice otherwise.  What would evolve to be “pop art” would be seen as an open invitation to appreciate the objects around you.

The Realist Art of Photography

Photography got its start in the early 1850s with the daguerreotypes. These were the first commercially producible photographs and were captured on a polished silver-coated sheet of copper. This “film” was coated in silver iodide, a light-sensitive material. This process created a single unique image. Creating daguerreotypes required the photographs to be bathed in different chemicals before being washed in water and dried. These cameras required a long exposure, around 15 minutes in the most expensive ones, in order to capture an image.

The photographer was then left with a small square of a developed photograph. Back then the images were black and white, and could not be edited before they were in their final forms. These could be considered the first kind of black and white framed art photography.

The inventor of the daguerreotype, Louis Daguerre, inadvertently took the earliest known photograph of a person with Henry Fox Talbot. The two pioneers of photography positioned a camera above the Boulevard de Temple in Paris in 1838. Only two people were still for the 10 minute exposure time and were captured. Thus a boot shine and his customer would be the first two people to be preserved in a photograph forever. What they, nor Daguerre and Talbot, would know, is that this technique would evolve to be unrecognizable over the coming years. Whether or not people would accept this technique as an art form would be debated for years. However, photographs, like paintings, are artificially constructed portrayals of the things around us. Just like traditionally accepted paintings, photographs have to be carefully composed, lit and produced.

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Animal Photography

Much like people today, anyone with access to photography around its introduction, pointed their cameras to their animals. Zoological gardens in large cities across Europe in the mid-19th century definitely had a part to play in this. They offered the public the chance to see exotic animals and inspired them to want to preserve their images to view later. And thus animal photography was born. 

In its early days, photography required long exposure times, which would be a challenge for capturing animals. The slightest movements from tails, faces, or feet would blur images. Wildlife photography was near impossible as a result until the late 19th century. This era brought with it faster film and compact cameras, that finally allowed photographers the ability to photograph animals in the wild. People’s views about animals started to shift in the early 20th century. They were seen as sentient and complex, and worthy of having their images preserved. Around this time photography has evolved to be able to accurately document their complex movements. 

Today, wildlife photography can be more narrative in nature. Modern wildlife photographers tend to critique humanity’s relationship with animals and the natural world. There is a greater sense of purpose in today’s photography landscape as more stories need to be told responsibly. As our planet finds it harder to survive the chaos of global warming, mass extinctions, and habitat loss, photographs are capturing its pleas.

The Rise of Animal Photography in Interior Design

As paintings and photography got to be cheaper with the advancement in methodology, naturally more people used them in interior design. As photography shifted from copper plates to digital, wildlife photography was given a new life. While it’s easier than ever to make pieces, like black and white framed art, people may opt for animal photography for different reasons.

A wildlife photographer isn’t simply observing animals in their natural homes anymore, instead, they’re chronicling their lives. Being able to record and share what they observe in the lives of animals has a powerful influence on how people approach nature. Sharing experiences with images have an inherent sense of accountability. So not only are wildlife photographs beautiful and inspiring aesthetically, but they also help educate and mobilize viewers. Seeing the reality of an animal’s life, habitat and diet helps us connect with them and their plight. That’s why people today are opting for interior design choices that are more three dimensional and have a greater purpose.

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