The Impact of Photography: Applications

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  • Topic: Photography, Camera obscura, History of photography
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The Impact of
Photography
Geoff Nunberg
IS103
History of Information
Oct. 31, 2007

1

The Range of Photography
Applications in private life, state
functioning, science, journalism, art…
And by extension, to broadcast,
cinema, x-ray, etc.

2

Agenda
The invention of photography
The photographic "truth"
Manipulating & questioning the photographic
truth, then and now
Photography as documentation
Fixing identities
Documenting the deviant
The physical classification of deviance

How we read photographs: as particular, real,
veridical, "objective"
(What's left out: photography and art)

3

Photography Before
Photographs
The camera obscura: images from
nature
Ibn al-Hatham
965-1039

4

Photography Before
Photographs
The prettiest Landskip I ever saw was one drawn on the Walls of a dark Room, which stood opposite on one side to a navigable
River…. Here you might discover the Waves and Fluctuations of the Water in strong and proper Colours, with a Picture of a Ship entering at one end and sailing by Degrees through the whole Piece. I must confess, the Novelty of such a Sight may be one occasion of its Pleasantness to the Imagination, but certainly the chief reason is its near resemblance to Nature. Joseph Addision, in the Spectator, 1712, on the camera obscura at Greenwich

Greenwich Royal
Observatory
5

G. Canaletto, London
Greenwich Hospital from
the North Bank of the
Thames, 1753

Camera obscura at Cliff House,
Ocean Beach

Photography Before
Photographs
The camera lucida

6

Photography Before
Photographs
Lenses and mirrors -- an old
masters' "cheat"?

7

Detail from Jan van Eyck's Arnolfini portrait, 1434

Creating a permanent
image
1725: Johann Heinrich Schulze demonstrates that
silver compounds are visibly changed by the action
of light; makes stencil impressions on glass, but does
not try to capture images from nature.
1800: Thomas Wedgewood makes images on leather
impregnated with silver nitrate, but is unable to
prevent progressive darkening
1819: Sir John Herschel discovers that sodium
hyposulfite ("hypo") will dissolve silver halides, can
be used to "fix" photographic prints. Later invents
the words "negative" and "positive" and
"photography"

Sir John Herschel, photographed
by Julia Cameron, 1867
8

The earliest photographs
1826: Nicéphore Niépce makes
"heliograph" on plate from window in Gras;
requires > 8 hr. exposure.
From 1829, Niépce collaborates with Louis
Daguerre, who announces in 1837 a new
"chemical and physical process" which "is
not merely an instrument which serves to
draw Nature; it gives her the ability to
reproduce herself."
Daguerreotype permits shorter exposures
(but still minutes long); does not permit
making multiple images

9

The earliest photographs
1839: William Henry Fox Talbot invents "photogenic
drawing": method of printing on paper, later the
calotype, which makes use of latent image,
permitting 1-3 min exposures.
Permits multiple prints, less sharp than daguerrotype with
"painterly" effects.

1851: Collodion process permits sharp printing on
paper

Cuneiform
tablet, Ninevah
10

The earliest photographs
1839: In photograph of rue du Temple, Daguerre
inadvertently makes first photograph of a person

11

The truth of photographs
1839: In truth, the Daguerreotyped plate is
infinitely more accurate in its representation than
any painting by human hands. If we examine a
work of ordinary art, by means of a powerful
microscope, all traces of resemblance to nature
will dissapear -- but the closest scrutiny of the
photographic drawing discloses only a more
accurate truth., a more perfect identity of aspect
with the thing represented.
E. A. Poe

12

The truth of photographs
While we give [sunlight]credit only for depicting
the merest surface, it actually brings out the secret
character with a truth that no painter would ever
venture upon, even if he...
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