A history of light: the idea of photography

Junko Theresa Mikuriya, ‘Introduction’, pp.1-9, in:
Mikuriya, J.T., 2017. A history of light: the idea of photography. Bloomsbury Academic, London.

p.1

[On photography]

Its apparent instability belies its generosity; its hospitality is such that its boundaries are porous and mutable, inviting the encroachment of others. Hence photography is often considered to be overly reliant upon its surroundings; attempts to define and to theorise photography would reduce it to a set of cultural, social, political or technological productions, identifying its history solely as the development of the photographic camera, or the inevitable outcome of a changing aesthetic sensibility.

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Afghan Box Camera

Birk, L., Foley, S., 2013. Afghan box camera. Dewi Lewis Publishing, Stockport, England.

Frontispiece

Gulbert would recite prayers and verses and blow on the camera, and then take out the photographs announcing, “A MIRACLE!”

p.11

In Afghanistan in the 1950s a simple hand-made wooden camera known as the kamra-e-faoree began to be used widely in the country for the first time.

Further afield in industrialised Europe and North America, patented relations had already appeared in the 1910s; whilst the photograph process the camera used was first introduced by William Henry Fox-Talbot in 1840s England.

In contrast […] to photography as a thing of the elite, the kamra-e-faoree brought photography to the common man and quite literally, to the street.

Only a narrow pavement slot was required to fit a camera, a chair and a cloth backdrop. The chair in which the customer posed for the portrait could also serve the photographer as a perch on which to rest or even sleep in quieter times. The camera lid provided a handy platform on which to place a pair of scissors and box of photo paper as well as hold a mug of tea and a saucer of sweets.

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Media Archaeography

Wolfgang Ernst, ‘Media Archaeography: Method and Machine Versus History and Narrative Of Media’, pp.239-255, in:

Huhtamo, E., Parikka, J. (Eds.), 2011. Media archaeology: approaches, applications, and implications. University of California Press, Berkeley, Calif.

p.239

The media-archaeological method as proposed here is meant as an epistemological alternative approach to the supremacy of media-historical narratives. Equally close to disciplines that analyse material (hardware) culture and to the Foucauldian notion of the “archive” as the set of rules governing the range of what can be verbally, audiovisually, or alphanumerically expressed at all, media archaeology is both a method and an aesthetics of practising media criticism, a kind of epistemological reverse engineering, and an awareness of moments when media themselves, not explicitly humans any more, come active “archaeologists” of knowledge.

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The Body and the Archive

Allan Sekula, ‘The Body and the Archive’, pp.3-64, in:
October, Vol. 39 (Winter, 1986). MIT Press.

p.3

The sheer range and volume of photographic practice offers ample evidence of the paradoxical status of photography within bourgeois culture. The simultaneous threat and promise of the new medium was recognized at a very early date, even before the daguerreotype process had proliferated.

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The One-Eyed Man and the One-Armed Man: Camera, Culture, and the State

John Tagg, ‘The One-Eyed Man and the One-Armed Man: Camera, Culture, and the State’, pp.1-49, in:
Tagg, J., 2009. The disciplinary frame: photographic truths and the capture of meaning. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

p.1

This carefully constructed room has an old name. It is a camera. A room, but a room with a purpose: the training of light, graphing it—quite literally, photo-graphing, subjecting light to the punctual rule of the room’s inbuilt geometrical law.

The camera is, then, a place to isolate and discipline light, like a room in Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon. And, like that room in the Panopticon, the cell of the camera has its utility both as a training machine and as a device for producing and preserving text.

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Photography, Vision and Representation

Joel Snyder & Neil Walsh Allen, ‘Photography, Vision, and Representation’, pp.143-169 in:
Critical Inquiry, Vol.2, Autumn 1975.

p.143

Is there anything peculiarly “photographic” about photography – something which sets it apart from all other ways of making pictures?

[…] for most of this century the majority of critics and laymen alike have tended to answer these questions in the same way: that photographs and paintings differ in an important way and require different methods in interpretation precisely because photographs and paintings come into being in different ways.

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Picturing Vision

Joel Snyder, ‘Picturing Vision’, pp.157-171, in:
Yates, Steve. ed. Poetics of Space: A Critical Photographic Anthology. University of New Mexico Press, Albequerque.

p.158

Our willingness to accept photographs as natural and mechanical records of what we see underscores the power of our belief that certain kinds of pictures achieve significance because they are “natural” – meaning that such pictures are related to what they depict in exactly (or roughly) the same way vision is related to what we see.

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The Traffic in Photographs

Allan Sekula, The Traffic in Photographs, pp. 15-25, in:
Art Journal, Vol. 41, No. 1, Photography and the Scholar/Critic (Spring, 1981)

p.15

The discourse that surrounds photography speaks paradoxically of discipline and freedom, vigorous truth and unleashed pleasures. Here then, at least by virtue of the need to contain the tensions inherent in this paradox, is the site of a certain shell game, a certain dance, even certain politics. In effect, we are invited to dance between photographic truth and photographic pleasures with very little awareness of the floorboards and muscles than make this seemingly effortless movement possible.

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Photography: history and theory

Jae Emerling, ‘Preface’ and ‘Introduction’, pp.xii-xiii and pp.1-16, in:

Emerling, J., 2012. Photography: history and theory. Routledge, Abingdon, Oxon; New York, NY.

Preface

p.xii

Every book on photography is always marked by the same limitation: the absence of all the photographs discussed within the text.

In other words, every historical and theoretical text on photography has blind spots, photographs that are missing, absent, untranslatable. Rather than see this as a shortcoming, perhaps it is better to reckon with these blind spots as openings, as disjunctive syntheses.

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Technology is Society made Durable

Bruno Latour, ‘Technology is Society made Durable’, pp.103-130 in:

Law, J. (Ed.), 1991. A sociology of monsters: essays on power, technology, and domination. Routledge, London New York.

p.103

In this paper I argue that in order to understand domination we have to turn away from an exclusive concern with social relations and weave them into a fabric that includes non-human actants, actants that offer the possibility of holding society together as a durable whole.

To be sure, the distinction between material infrastructure and symbolic superstructure has been useful to remind social theory of the importance of non-humans, but it is a very inaccurate portrayal of their mobilisation and engagement inside the social links. This paper aims to explore another repertoire for studying this process of mobilisation.

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