short-notice research!

Apparently I need to Know Stuff about the early history of photography for the Victorian book. Any buffs out there who might know a good book I could read about it? I pretty much only care about nineteenth-century technology; later developments are less relevant for my purposes.

0 Responses to “short-notice research!”

  1. Anonymous

    These are books that should be available at your friendly local library… and pretty much nowhere else.

    Mary Warner Marien, Photography: A Cultural History (2002)
    Martin W. Sandler, Photography: An Illustrated History (2002)
    (friendly warning: you’ll need a wheelbarrow to get them home — they’re both thick, oversized volumes on heavy coated paper)

    The key point is this: In the early years of photography (mid-1830s to early 1850s), there was an ongoing struggle between positive-image and negative-image photography that was driven primarily by copyright and reproducibility issues. Remember, color and offset lithography was not commercially feasible until the late 1880s (see, e.g., Michael Twyman, The British Library Guide to Printing: History and Techniques (1998)), so part of the impetus was how quickly/easily/cheaply a single image could be used to create copies for widespread distribution.

    And, to send you down a side path that might yield some surprisingly useful results, you should also look at two U.S. Supreme Court opinions on copyright and photographs:
    Bleisten v. Donaldson Litho. Co., 188 U.S. 239 (1903)
    Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony, 111 U.S. 53 (1884)
    which both discuss photography in historical context, particularly as it relates to “originality.”

  2. kchew

    This site may be useful: On the navigation bar below the site name, there is a drop-down menu for photography. They also have samples, including some fabulous photos of smiling Victorians.

  3. malsperanza

    The other standard survey text besides the ones mentioned is “A World History of Photography” by Naomi Rosenblum, which gives a good capsule history in the first chapters IIRC including basic technology info.

    But I really recommend Geoffrey Batchen on early photography. You might look at his “Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography.” Lots of good social history in Batchen’s books.

  4. green_knight

    I have no idea how accurate it is, but Frizot, Michel (ed): A New History of Photography.- Koeln 1998 is full of details and images and gossip and, oh, my.

    I was also fascinated by Emerson, P. H.: Naturalistic photography for students of the art.- London 1890 – not only did teh copy I saw it have adverts for various bits and pieces, but it drove home how *normal* photography had become by then. (I just inherited a batch of photographs from my aunt; including a picture of her as a toddler in 1893, which sort of reinforced that impression.)

  5. tapinger

    It’s focused more on the historical context (and showing photos), but India Through the Lens: Photography 1840 – 1911 does have a number of tidbits about how the technology developed especially as it was relevant to the pictures that could be made. For example, the wet colloidal process (not sure if I’m remembering the name correctly) was somewhat limiting as the image had to be taken and developed while the plate was still wet, basically requiring the photographer to have a dark room and all the supplies in the field. It also comments about how photos with colors painted in (real color film didn’t come along until the 20th century, if I recall correctly) were looked down on by many photographers but extremely popular with the public. If you end up looking at it, you might want to look at the appendix first as it has a fairly concise overview of the various technologies.

Comments are closed.