Week 0. History of Photography

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Origins and Origin Stories

Meeting Details

Tuesday September 24

Morning seminar 10:00am-12:00pm, Portland 2.3

Afternoon workshop: Using your Wiki 1:30-4pm, Portland computer lab, TBA


What was the origin of photography? When was it? Whose is the authoritative version? How do the inventors and historians quantify the beginnings of things? This session has two purposes: first we aim to give you an overview of the complicated alliances involved in constructing a history; second we want to sensitize you to the very important aspects of voice and audience in historical accounts. An understanding of the complexity of photographic history and the awareness of writing styles will be subjects we return to in many if not all of our seminars this term and next.

To prepare for this seminar Please bring with you one or more texts that have influenced your idea of photographic history (in electronic format if you can, full bibliographic reference if not). We will discuss these texts and other themes, and in the afternoon we will load the texts on the wiki so you may all read them.

Required Reading

Geoffrey Batchen. "Conception." Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography. Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1992. Read: 24-35, Skim 36-52.

William Henry Fox Talbot, Some Account of the Art of Photogenic Drawing or the Process by which Natural Objects may be made to delineate themselves (London: R. and J.E. Taylor, 1839)

William Henry Fox Talbot, 'Brief Historical Sketch of the Invention of the Art' in Pencil of Nature (London:

Further Reading and Looking

Marc Osterman on the Evolution of the Daguerreotype before 1839

George Eastman House, Rochester, New York

Luminous Lint

Photo-eye Bookstore and Gallery

The new Trans Asia Photography Review

For your reading pleasure, Kelley has uploaded appendices from her doctoral dissertation, giving translations of some key Niepce manuscripts. These can be found in the original in

Jean-Louis Marignier, Niepce L'invention de la photographie (Paris: Belin, 1999)

Joseph Nicephore Niepce Lettres 1816-1817 (Rouen: Pavillon de la photographie, 1973)

and Kravetz, Torichan Pavlovich. Dokumentii po istorîi fotografii (Leningrad, 1949). Reprint edition (New York: Arno Press, 1979).

and of course it is always much better to read them in the original. All of these books are available in Portland 1.24. The translations were made by me, and checked through a professional translator.


The feedback is due by the Monday after the session is offered.

This material should be provided as a short response to the following three questions:

1. In one sentence for each, please note two or three main ideas from this session.


2. What concept(s) need more reinforcement?


3. What two or three aspects of this session did the group like/dislike and why?


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