Studying the early history of photography, one at some point comes to a poignant realization: For several decades, prior to John Herschel’s 1839 application of hyposulphite of soda as a photographic fixing agent, light-based images were being made but could not be preserved unless they were kept out of sight, literally in the dark. For them to be seen required exposing them to light, which paradoxically had the effect of rendering them progressively invisible. These fugitive proto-photographs, lost to us now, have played the role of failed experiments in the history of photography, paving the way for the successes of the late 1830s and beyond. Photography, in contrast to these evanescent images, came to be defined as the achievement of something enduring. In William Henry Fox Talbot’s memorable phrase of 1839, photography is the “art of fixing a shadow,” a term used 150 years later as the title of a...
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February 01 2023
The Night Albums: Visibility and the Ephemeral Photograph
The Night Albums: Visibility and the Ephemeral Photographby
University of California Press,
Berkeley, CA, U.S.A.,
168pp., illus. Trade, paper. ISBN: 978-0-520-38152-0; ISBN: 978-0-520-38154-4.
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Online ISSN: 1530-9282
Print ISSN: 0024-094X
Leonardo (2023) 56 (1): 104–106.
Stephen Petersen; The Night Albums: Visibility and the Ephemeral Photograph. Leonardo 2023; 56 (1): 104–106. doi: https://doi.org/10.1162/leon_r_02325
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