A Snapshot of Photography's Revolutionary Early Days

By Hartle, Terry W. | The Christian Science Monitor, July 23, 1997 | Go to article overview

A Snapshot of Photography's Revolutionary Early Days


Hartle, Terry W., The Christian Science Monitor


Photography and Its Critics: A Cultural History, 1839-1900 By Mary Warner Marien Cambridge U. Press 222 pp., $55 It is commonplace to acknowledge that the computer revolution is fundamentally transforming our society. Time magazine articulated this view when it selected the personal computer as "Man of the Year" in 1982 and wrote, "The 'information revolution' that futurists have long predicted has arrived, bringing with it the promise of dramatic changes in the way people live and work, perhaps even in the way they think. America will never be the same. In a larger perspective, the entire world will never be the same." This is not, of course, the first time that a new technology has been heralded as the harbinger of sweeping social change. Indeed, as Mary Warner Marien documents in her fascinating book "Photography and Its Critics: A Cultural History, 1839-1900," the advent of photography was immediately recognized as an unprecedented revolution in visual knowledge that was alternately described as "a wonder, a freak of nature, a new art, a threshold science, and a dynamic instrument of democracy." Photography emerged suddenly in 1839, and its antecedents were not clear. Indeed, to this day, there are a large number of varying ideas about the origins of photography and the meaning of the photographic practice. Unlike the computer or the machines of the Industrial Revolution, photography's pioneers resisted the temptation to claim that photography was a technological invention developed by humans. Instead, they insisted that it originated in and was disclosed by nature. This emphasis allowed its pioneers to present photography not as a new science or technology but as the culmination of the long-standing search in Western culture for a means of pure representation that was "free from omission, distortion, style, murky subjectivity, or outside interference." As a result, photography was seen as a form of "natural" vision that implied a pure and direct truthfulness. This view was easily expanded to suggest that photography was also a "neutral" vision that was independent of the subject's thoughts and feelings. These ideas that photography was a natural vision and a neutral one are simply two of the many aspects described by Marien that shaped early attitudes toward, and understanding of, photography. The sometimes inconsistent ideas that shaped the understanding and acceptance of photography proved not to be a problem. To the contrary, Marien finds such ambiguity a benefit. Photography became a malleable art form that allowed many different social meanings to be ascribed to it.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Snapshot of Photography's Revolutionary Early Days
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.