This page looks at photography as a communication revolution.
It covers -
of photography is discussed here.
In the preceding page of this note we suggested that
some of McLuhan's wilder assertions were persuasively challenged
in works such as James Elkins' The Domain of Images
(Ithaca: Cornell Uni Press 1999), Picturing the Past:
Media, History & Photography (Urbana: Uni of Illinois
Press 1999) edited by Bonnie Brennen & Hanno Hardt, Ariella
Azoulay's The Civil Contract of Photography (New
York: Zone Books 2008) and Mary Marien's Photography and
Its Critics: A Cultural History, 1839-1900 (Cambridge:
Cambridge Uni Press 1997) or Photography: A Cultural History
(London: Lawrence King 2006).
As with prints, one starting point for considering authenticity,
truth and mass distribution of images remains 'The Work of
Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction', Walter Benjamin's
1936 classic. It is available in Illuminations (New
York: Schocken 1985) translated by Harry Zohn. It also available
in the MIT Press edition of his collected works.
For a study of the role of the media in the formation of a
public sphere see John Hartley's The Politics of Pictures:
The Creation of the Public in the Age of Popular Media
(New York: Routledge 1992), particularly the role of images
in newspapers, John Raeburn's A Staggering Revolution:
A Cultural History of Thirties Photography (Urbana: Uni
of Illinois Press 2006), Patricia Vettel-Becker's Shooting
from the Hip: Photography, Masculinity, and Postwar America
(Minneapolis: Uni of Minnesota Press 2005), Rolf Sachsse's
Die Erziehung zum Wegsehen: Fotografie im NS-Staat
(Dresden: Philo 2003), The Soviet Photograph 1924-1937
(New Haven: Yale Uni Press 1996) by Margarita Tupitsyn, Abigail
Solomon-Godeau's Photography at the Dock: Essays on Photographic
History, Institutions and Practices (Minneapolis: Uni
of Minnesota Press 1991), Elspeth Brown's The Corporate
Eye: Photography and the Rationalization of American Commercial
Culture, 1884-1929 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Uni Press
2005), Julie Brown's Making Culture Visible: The Public
Display of Photography at Fairs, Expositions & Exhibitions
in the United States, 1847-1900 (New York: Routledge
2001), Beautiful Suffering: Photography and the Traffic
in Pain (Chicago: Uni of Chicago Press 2007) by Mark
Reinhardt, Holly Edwards & Erina Duganne and No Caption
Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy
(Chicago: Uni of Chicago Press 2007) by Robert Hariman &
Felice Frankel's Envisioning Science: The Design and Craft
of the Science Image (Cambridge: MIT Press 2002) and
The Meaning of Photography (New Haven: Yale Uni Press
2008) by Robin Kelsey & Blake Stimson are also recommended.
Ivins comments that the invention of photography changed
the world -
in the history of men has there been a more complete revolution
than that which has taken place since the middle of the
nineteenth century in seeing and visual recording. Photographs
give us visual evidence about things that no man has ever
seen or ever will see directly. A photograph is today accepted
as proof of the existence of things and shapes that never
would have been believed on the evidence of a hand-made
picture ... Photography brought a catastrophic revolution,
the extent of which is not even today fully recognized.
quotes coverage in the Leipzig City Advertiser of
the invention of the daguerrotype -
wish to capture evanescent reflections is not only impossible...
but the mere desire alone, the will to do so, is blasphemy.
God created man in His own image, and no man- made machine
may fix the image of God. Is it possible that God should
have abandoned His eternal principles, and allowed a Frenchman
... to give to the world an invention of the Devil?
photographic revolution, catastrophic or otherwise, is examined
in Estelle Jussim's Visual Communication & the Graphic
Arts: Photographic Technologies in the Nineteenth Century
(London: Bowker 1974), Sarah Greenough's The Art of the
American Snapshot, 1888-1978 (Princeton: Princeton Uni
Press 2007) and Richard Rudisill's Mirror Image: The Influence
of the Daguerrotype on American Society (Albuquerque:
Uni of New Mexico Press 1971).
There is a more general exploration in Susan Sontag's On
Photography (London: Allen Lane 1977) and in Photography
& Society (London: Gordon Fraser 1980) by master photographer
Gisela Freund. For historical overviews see Helmut Gernsheim's
The Concise History of Photography (London: Thames
& Hudson 1986), Naomi Rosenblum's A World History
of Photography (New York: Abbeville 1997), Robert Hirsch's
Seizing the Light: A History of Photography (New
York: McGraw-Hill 2000) or Michael Langford's crisp The
Story of Photography (London: Focal Press 1980). Beaumont
Newhall's The History of Photography from 1839 to the
Present (London: Secker & Warburg 1986) offers the
perspective of a leading US curator.
James Ryan's Picturing Empire: Photography & the Visualisation
of the British Empire (London: Reaktion 1997) and Scoop,
scandal and strife: a study of photography in newspapers
(London: Lund Humphries 1971) edited by Ken Baynes are suggestive.
For the interaction of photography and painting see in particular
The Painter & the Photographer, From Delacroix to
Warhol (Alberquerque: Uni of New Mexico Press 1972) by
Van Deren Coke and Marina Vaizey's The Artist as Photographer
(London: Sidgwick & Jackson 1982).
Martin Lister edited The Photographic Image in Digital
Culture (London: Routledge 1995), one of the more interesting
explorations of photography in contemporary culture.
For censorship of photographs see the discussion here
and in the complementary note
on unauthorised photography. Microfilming is discussed
For perspectives on rights licensing and image libraries
see the separate profiles of Getty
Images and Corbis.
Illustrations, photographs and maps have been ports for launching
a thousand dreams and for new conceptualisations of the world.
They have also been variously denounced as catering to emotions
rather reason, cutting man off from nature or merely from
individual creativity. Baudelaire thus fretted in 1859 about
the impoverishment off artistic genius
revengeful God has given ear to the prayers of this multitude.
Daguerre was his Messiah. Our squalid society rushed, Narcissus
to a man, to gaze at its trivial image on a scrap of metal.
echoed Feuerbach's lament in The Essence of Christianity
that his age "prefers the image to the thing, the copy
to the original, the representation to the reality, appearance
to being" and Oliver Wendell Holmes' characterisation
of photography as the "mirror with a memory". Holmes
predicted that the "image would become more important
than the object itself and would in fact make the object disposable".
That is a traditional lament. Roland Barthes worried that
"the image no longer illustrates the words; it is now
the words which, structurally, are parasitic on the image".
Neil Postman's more romantic The Disappearance of Childhood
complained that the "electronic and graphic revolutions"
involved an "uncoordinated but powerful assault on language
and literacy, a recasting of the world of ideas into speed-of-light
icons and images" that "ask us to feel, not to think".
Paul Virilio recycled fin de siecle anxiety about
the cinema in announcing a "great threat to the word"
through the "evocative power of the screen"
the image is live, there is a conflict between deferred
time and real time, and in this there is a serious threat
to writing and to the author.
huh. From there it is a small step to announcing that the
Iraq War did not occur.
Legal frameworks for still images have followed the trajectory
of technologies, markets and social attitudes, encompassing
that images embody a spirit (reflected in restrictions under
some Indigenous cultural regimes
regarding making or displaying of photographs)
expectations that images embody a regime or confer legitimacy,
apparent in iconoclasm
and the 'airbrushing' of the historical record
that images are more potent than speech, evident in some
and moral rights protection
under copyright law for the creators and owners of images,
with photographs and engravings or other 'mechanical reproduction'
often receiving lesser protection
about the evidential value of photographs and photocopies
(eg regarding identity
documentation and forgery
stances on questions of personality
rights (do celebrities and ordinary people 'own' their
images) and privacy (what are appropriate restrictions on
the media and on workplace
surveillance or on digital phones in changerooms).
Points of access to major online photographic exhibitions
and collections include -
Smithsonian Photography Initiative (3 million images spread
across the Smithsonian Institution's 19 museums in 700 archives
and special collections) | here
Eastman House | here
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