How do photographs shape memory and identity from 1750 to 1850?

Portraits of the Emperor and Princess of Prussia

A desire to commemorate people and places connects early photographic technologies with other, pre-photographic, forms of visual representation, such as painted portraits. But paintings were time-consuming and expensive to produce, and were therefore only available to a small segment of the overall population. By the early nineteenth century, a number of alternatives to the traditional painted portrait were circulating widely. Portrait miniatures, for example, were popular from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. While the small size of miniatures necessarily reduced the cost of the portrait, painters of miniatures were highly skilled and their portraits were still luxury objects. In the mid-eighteenth century, silhouette drawing grew popular as a faster and less expensive way of producing a likeness, and artists began using the physionotrace, a device designed to mechanize the process of producing accurate silhouette portraits. The development of photographic technologies in the nineteenth century rendered these other forms of portraiture virtually obsolete.

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