Chapter 4 Summary: From Fuji to Photography

Japanese art has always had an influence on me, so this chapter definitely caught my interest. One thing I never knew was that Japan closed its borders to the outside world so no one would be able to come in or leave, except for the Dutch (who had signed a treaty with them from the 1600’s). It wasn’t until 1854, when the U.S.A. signed a treaty with the Japanese to allow the flow of trade between one another. Therefore, Japanese art didn’t reach Europe until the 1880’s since there had been a constraint in allowing little information to leave or come into the country. When Japanese Ukiyo-e (woodblock prints) reached Europe, there was a huge impact on European culture as they were very fascinated by the massive difference in their art style. While European art had mostly relied on drawing and painting things realistically, the Japanese were making their art freely in a less constrained manner which allowed them to exhibit their own style that was different from the rest.

Now, before Japanese art became a trend in Europe, photography was invented in 1822 by Joseph Niépce. He created the heliogravure, where a light-sensitive coating was applied to a plate and as light hit it the chemicals would somehow react with the light and it would capture the image onto the plate. This was a very long process as it required a long exposure for the image to be captured. After Niépce died, Louis Jacques Daguerre carried out the invention which then helped William Henry Fox Talbot create another technique similar to Niépce’s invention that only allowed for a 1-2 minute exposure. What surprised me was that many of the photos taken of people during the time were already dead since it required a lot of sitting without any movement.

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