There’s an incredible new historic photography gallery going on at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC: The Eye of the Sun. Coming to 140 images in total, The Eye of the Sun explores the rich history and artistry of photography, starting right where the profession began.

A 19th century photograph image depicting a small canoe on a still river.

The Eye of the Sun | The Beginning of Photography as We Know It

Every photographer should know the name Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre. All the way back in 1839, Daguerre sent a spark through the world as the first person to render an image permanently with his daguerreotype invention. Until then, only painters had been able to capture moments in time like this. Throughout the next half-century, a period of incredible discovery would take place from the likes of artists, scientists, and entrepreneurs alike using Daguerre’s innovative machine.

[Related Reading: Over 2 Million Historic Photographs Now Available Online – Pique Your Interest With A Peek Into History]

Throughout history, photography has had the ability to give us glimpses into what life was like in each century that followed the invention of the daguerreotype. Diane Waggoner, a curator of 19th-century photographs and the wonderful mind that brings us The Eye of the Sun at the National Gallery of Art recently did an interview with Buzzfeed News which you can read HERE. In it, she discusses the conception of the gallery idea, stating:

“‘The eye of the sun’ is actually a quotation taken from a seminal article written by Lady Elizabeth Eastlake in 1857 on photography. […] In 1857, she wrote a review article on photography that discussed all the various uses of photography — what it meant, the way it had changed the world, and the way it had changed the way people lived their lives. At a certain point, she calls the camera ‘the eye of the sun.’ I thought this was a very evocative phrase, so I adapted it for the title of this exhibition.”

A photo shot by Francis Frith in 1858 of the Pyramids of El-Geezeh, from the South-West.

The entire interview is definitely worth a read so make sure to check it out! And if you’re located in the D.C. area, or are planning to make a trip there before December, do yourself a favor and check out The Eye of the Sun for yourself. It’s running from now to December 1st.

“I want people to take away how magical photography was in those early years,” says Waggoner. “And to indulge a sense of intimacy with the past.”