Recent decades have seen a flourishing interest in and speculation about the origins of photography. Spurred by rediscoveries of ‘first’ photographs and proclamations of photography’s death in the digital age, scholars have been rethinking who and what invented the medium.
Photography and Its Origins reflects on this interest in photography’s beginnings by reframing it in critical and specifically historiographical terms. How and why do we write about the origins of the medium? Whom or what do we rely on to construct those narratives? What’s at stake in choosing to tell stories of photography’s genesis in one way or another? And what kind of work can those stories do?
Edited by Tanya Sheehan and Andrés Mario Zervigón, this collection of 16 original essays, illustrated with 32 colour images, showcases prominent and emerging voices in the field of photography studies. Their research cuts across disciplines and methodologies, shedding new light on old questions about histories and their writing.
Photography and Its Origins will serve as a valuable resource for students and scholars in art history, visual and media studies, and the history of science and technology.
Introduction Tanya Sheehan and Andrés Zervigón Part I: Rethinking first photograph(er)s 1. A Sensational Story: Helmut Gernsheim and "The World’s First Photograph" Jessica S. McDonald 2. What’s Wrong with Daguerre? Hans Rooseboom 3. Omphaloskeptical? On Daguerre, Smoke Drawing, Finger Painting, and Photography Stephen C. Pinson 4. The Past through the Looking Glass Dan Estabrook Part II: Multiplying beginnings 5. Origins without End Geoffrey Batchen 6. Notes towards New Accounts of Photography’s Invention Douglas R. Nickel 7. Against Photographic Exceptionalism Stephen Bann 8. Sacred Stories: Photography’s Indigenous Origins Heather Shannon 9. Seeing Ourselves as Others See Us: Frederick Douglass’s Reflections on Daguerreotypy and Racial Difference Marcy J. Dinius Part III: Writing (trans)national histories 10. "An American Sun Shines Brighter," or, Photography Was (Not) Invented in the United States François Brunet 11. The Bertoloni Album: Rethinking Photography’s National Identity Beth Saunders 12. Photography and Its Chinese Origins Yi Gu 13. Looking into the Past and Present: The Origins of Photography in Africa Jürg Schneider Part IV: Tracing scientific origins 14. Self-Reflections: The Nature of Sir Humphry Davy’s Photographic "Failures" Jordan Bear 15. Natural/Mechanical: Keywords in the Conception of Early Photography Laura Saltz 16. A Note on the Science of Photography: Reconsidering the Invention Story Kelley Wilder Selected bibliography
"This much-needed volume is a triumph in more ways than one. Rather than merely revisiting well known origin stories and protagonists, the volume takes a critical approach to the theme itself by asking why origins matter to us. It also makes a larger point; by addressing photography's origins beyond the Western canon it finally brings places and people into the centre of research that have hitherto been neglected."
Mirjam Brusius, Mellon Post-doctoral Fellow in the History of Photography, University of Oxford
"This collection of essays significantly advances our understanding of the prehistory and origins of photography. Expanding the intellectual and geographic boundaries has allowed new narratives to emerge and challenge the traditional chronicles that have previously dominated the field. An important contribution and persuasive testimony to the emerging interdisciplinary nature of photographic history. "
Roger Taylor, Emeritus Professor of Photographic History, De Montfort University, Leicester