How do photographs circulate knowledge from 1850 to 1900?

The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals

The processes and formats that dominated photographic practices in the latter half of the nineteenth century allowed photographs to be reproduced en masse and to circulate widely. Combined with the photograph’s reputation as a truthful mode of representation, largely due to its indexical qualities, technical changes increasingly rendered photography the medium of choice for circulating knowledge. As explained by art historian John Tagg, photography was taken up by “a whole range of scientific and technical applications and supplied a ready instrumentation to a number of reformed or emerging medical, legal and municipal apparatuses in which photographs functioned as a means of record and a source of evidence” (257). 

Such applications can be observed in the examples included here, which gathered together representations of people and places for close study, submitting them to a viewer’s controlling and objectifying gaze. For example, the Geological Survey of California and the photographs in CPR 1887 served colonial interests that sought to take control over the lands that the projects surveyed, while Darwin’s study of emotion and Sandow’s System of Physical Training both attempted to rationalize and control the human body. However, as many of these examples demonstrate, photographers and publishers still faced significant challenges when working to create and circulate knowledge through photographs. 

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