Was photography accepted as a legitimate art form in the 19th century?
As far back as the tenth century, Arabian physicist and mathematician Ibn Al Haitam experimented with images seen through the pinhole. Then, in the fifteenth century, Leonardo da Vinci observed that if the facade of a building faces the sun and a hole is drilled through a wall that is also facing this direct direction, images of everything all the objects that are illuminated by the sun will be projected upside down upon the wall facing the sun. This phenomenon he termed "oculis artificialis" [artificial eye]. From this observation, men began the process of developing the camera. Much later in France, inventor Joseph Nicephore Niepce experimented with camera obscura and silver chloride. Certainly, at this point camera images were a scientific study.
With the advancements made in photography, many artists saw this medium for recording visual images as a tremendous threat to their professions. With the invention of the Kodak No. 2 Brownie box by George Eastman in America, the camera became an affordable and popular item. In fact, in 1862, a group of French painters became interested in the perspective that the camera's "eye" presented as opposed to that of the human eye. One impressionistic painter whose perspective imitated the camera's eye is Edgar Degas, who depictions of ballerinas is from unusual and cropped perspectives. In May of 1874, French artists exhibited impressionistic photographs; moreover this group continued for twelve years and had work exhibited by such greats as Cezanne and Gauguin.
Nevrtheless, despite the movement of Pictorialism in which men like Peter Henry Emerson exhibited their aesthetic and emotionally charged photographic images, photography was really not recognized as an art until the twentieth century with such artistic individuals as Ansel Adams, who made use of "Zone System" and "F-64" in which everything is in focus. With filters and other devices, in his beautiful photographs from the National Parks of the U.S. he recreated dimension and detail as well as magnificent panorama.
William Henry Jackson traveled much of the western United States in the mid-late nineteenth century, producing photographs of naturaly scenes that excited westward expansion, prompted the development of a national park system to preserve and protect the areas he photographed, and supported the general feeling of national pride and optimism in the United States at the close of the century.
Matthew Brady's photographs of the Civil War were of a much different nature in the scenes they recorded, but their impact was enormous upon the society of the time.