Full Text


Martin Lister

Subject Cultural Studies
Sociology of Culture and Media » Sociology of Media

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


By chemically fixing the images produced by cameras, photography (literally “light writing”) was the first technology in history to automate the production of visual images by freeing them from a reliance on skilled hand-eye coordination. It also enabled the mechanical reproduction of existing visual images. From the mid-nineteenth century onwards, photography radically changed when and where images could be made, their relationship to time and movement, who could make them, and the uses to which images could be put. It placed the visual image at the center of a wide range of social, cultural, and scientific practices. Photography was a key factor in the emergence of modern societies pervaded by throwaway images, seductive spectacles, and surveillance through vision. Within a decade of their invention photographs were being produced in many parts of the world, and within 20 years the rudiments of commercial, scientific, social, and artistic practices were established. In a remarkably short time, photography was being used for ethnographic, pornographic, surveillance, criminological, medical, and propaganda purposes. From early on, photography was utilized in war reportage, programs of social reform in the new industrial cities, as a means of marketing commodities and celebrity, and in the affirmation and construction of personal identity, biography, memory, and social status. From ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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