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Oddly enough, photography did not begin with the invention of the camera. The first modern camera was a machine: designed, invented and patented in 1840 by Alexander Wolcott 1. to accommodate the then-new processes being developed (no pun intended) by Louis Daguerre, Nicéphore Niépce, William Henry Fox Talbot and others to accurately and permanently capture scenes from real life.

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Since then, photography and design have been made inseparable: by the camera itself. The creation and design of cameras made photography available to anyone. The simple, elegant black box seen here is the parent of personal photography as we know it. Until the very recent use of phones as cameras, cameras were almost exclusively elegant (black) boxes with a lens. Even now, high-end cameras are still some modern interpretation of that design.

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What we are accustomed to seeing in the design of an object is deeply entrenched in our visual memories. Quite apart from the function, camera design is beautiful in and of itself. Even while Apple® plasters ads all over touting the i-phone 6® as a great camera—and it is—somehow we are still not yet quite convinced; an i-phone is not an elegant black box.

Because of the designs of modern cameras, we all too often believe that if someone is carrying and using an expensive, beautiful camera, particularly of a recognized name—Leica, Canon, Nikon, Sony etc.—we assume that they are an accomplished photographer. Oftentimes that is exactly what the camera carrier wants us to think.

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The move from film to the digitalization of images has made photography infinitely inexpensive. Camera manufacturers have responded in kind; cameras become more beautifully designed with every new model. These manufacturers are now selling two things: the camera itself and desire. Beautiful design sells itself because we want it, viscerally, and desire sells at a much higher price.

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A camera is, in some ways, more like a musical instrument than an artist’s medium. Anyone can click a shutter, and in these days of cameras that automatically prepare the best shot, allow the shooter myriad techniques never available with film, and with Photoshop®, LightRoom® , Picasa® et al to “develop” them, fantastic images can be and are created. Yet when we see an image captured by a talented photographer do we instantly think: “ Oh, that’s a Nikon photo!?” Of course not. Somewhat ironically, in the hands of that talented photographer, it doesn’t matter if the image was captured with a $50 point-and-shoot or a camera worth thousands of dollars. We are seeing the image through the photographer’s eye, sidestepping the camera itself, yet the image could not have been made without the camera.

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They are inseparable, no matter what form a camera may take (pinhole to SLR to i-phone®, even video). As our worlds become ever more visual, and ever more connected by visual information, the cameras themselves—though invisibly—become/have become our eyes. Photography & design can’t be separated, they are conjoined. This is true of no other visual art form.

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