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It has been said (and there’s even a song about it!) that a picture is worth a thousand words. But taking some time to look at some of the amazing photos that have been taken over the almost 200 years that photography has been known to man, it may sometimes seem that a picture can be worth ever so many more.

Some photos seem to show the full extent of human cruelty, such as the infamous photo of American soldiers torturing and abusing an Iraqi prisoner in Abu Ghraid prison. While others show the horrors of war and how it hurts the most vulnerable, such as the heartbreaking photo of a napalm scarred little girl running from her burning village in Vietnam.

Still others have the ability to portray age old truths, such as the last photo of the Titanic afloat that was taken just three short days before it sank (which rings true as the very embodiment of the adage that pride comes before fall).

Other pictures may be endlessly inspiring, such as the iconic photo of African American Olympic athlete Jesse Owens defying Hitler by refusing to give a Nazi salute. This was captured after he won several gold medals and proved the dictator’s Aryan supremacy theory was nothing but propaganda and myth.

And some photographs are just plain beautiful and uplifting, such as the countless photos of the joyful reunions of people with their husbands, wives, parents, children, and even pets after extended absences.

Since its invention, photography has given humans the incredible opportunity to capture a moment in time and keep it alive forever. And if that’s not worth celebrating, what is?

The History of National Photography Month

Thousands of years ahead of technology, in the 4th century BC, the Greek philosopher Aristotle was already contemplating what would much later be called the “pinhole camera”.

The earliest surviving photo of nature was taken in 1826 by the French scientist and inventor Nicéphore Niépce. At that time, it took days of exposure for a photo to be ready. One of Niépce’s contemporaries, French painter Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, was so excited about this invention that he continued to pursue the process, vastly reducing exposure time and creating opportunities for portraits.

Today, close to two centuries later, it is possible to see just how far photography has come. (Well, except for selfies. Those should probably not be considered progress, as far as humanity goes, anyway.) With the instantly developed Polaroid camera created in 1948 and then finally digital cameras marketed in the late 1990s, the progress has been remarkable.

National Photography Month was created to help people all over the world celebrate the invention of this incredible means of communication with previous and future generations.

So be sure not to let this day go to waste and make some memories with a photograph!

National Photography Month Timeline

4th Century BC

Photography Principles are used 

Originally used by Aristotle, the principles of camera obscura are used, which is the process of projecting an image through a small hole.[1]

1826

First camera photograph is taken 

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce is a French inventor and the first to make a permanent photographic image.[2]

1839

Commercial portraits are are made 

Using inventions created by French painter Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, people begin getting their photographic portraits taken. The first “selfie” is also taken this year.[3]

1975

First digital camera 

Built by Eastman Kodak, the first self-contained digital camera is created by Steve Sasson.[4]

1987

First National Photography Month is celebrated 

US Congress recognizes the contributions made by photography, backed by the American Photographers Association.[5]

How to Celebrate National Photography Month

National Photography month offers a whole 31 days for enjoying and celebrating! Try out some of these plans for observing this time, or come up with some of your own clever ideas:

Enroll in a Photography Course

Whether a complete novice, a hobbyist, or a professional photographer, there is certainly always more to learn! Perhaps the local community college will have something on offer, or it might be possible to take private lessons from a local professional photographer.

Brush up on or learn more about portrait taking, landscapes, wedding photography, black and white, wildlife, film photography, home and real estate, or even underwater photography! The options for improvement of skills are almost endless.

Visit a Photography Exhibit

Whether in an art gallery or a museum, this is the ideal time to enjoy some photographic art whether by a local artist or a world famous one. Visiting a gallery opening will likely even allow for meeting the artist and enjoying the company of others who also appreciate such fine work.

Those who feel up for traveling a bit further from home might want to try out one of these well known museums that often exhibit photography:

  • Foam Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Presenting all the facets of contemporary photography, Foam is one of the best photography museums in Europe.
  • The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Tokyo, Japan. Located in Yebisu Garden Palace, this museum is usually dedicated to themed exhibits instead of specific photographers.
  • The Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, Illinois, USA. This college art museum is specifically dedicated to photography and is known as MoCP.
  • Lianzhou Museum of Photography in Lianzhou, China. The first state funded photography museum in the country, it was founded in 2017.

Buy a New Camera

For those who have been in the photography game for awhile, National Photography Month might be just the reason to consider upgrading the current camera, buying a new lens, or getting a better tripod.

And for those who are just starting out, this might be the right time to make a small investment in a camera for learning on. Of course, if there’s some question about whether it will actually be enjoyable, borrowing a camera at first might be the best way to go about learning.

Enjoy Some Old Photographs

National Photography Month could be celebrated by digging up old photos that haven’t been seen in years and marveling at the times gone by and all of the incredible experiences that were had, as well as taking lots of new photos to enjoy in the years to come.

That little birthday party your significant other threw for you may not seem like a big deal today, nor may the walk that was taken with your toddler and the dog, but it’s likely that later there will be times for looking back at both of those events very fondly in the years to come. The world has access to such an incredible tool that lets people keep every memory alive forever that it would almost be downright wrong not to!

National Photography Month is an ideal opportunity to appreciate all the things that photography has done for humanity, and then continue in that glorious tradition. So be sure to get out that camera and the photo albums and get celebrating!

National Photography Month FAQs

When is National Photography Month?

National Photography Month takes place every year in the month of May.[1]

What is National Photography Month?

National Photography Month takes place to recognize the role photography plays in modern society and encourage those involved.[2]

How to celebrate National Photography Month?

Celebrating this month is easy! Enjoy looking at photographs, taking some photographs, and telling a photographer how much their work is appreciated.[3]

When was photography invented?

The first permanent photograph was invented by French inventor, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce,  in 1826.[4]

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