Photography’s Materialities

Transatlantic Photographic Practices over the Long Nineteenth Century

Edited by Geoff Bender and Rasmus R. Simonsen

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Extensive variety of material approaches to the study of photography and photographic practices

There is little dispute that photography is a material practice, and that the photograph itself is ineluctably material. And yet “matter,” “material,” and “materiality” have proven to be remarkably elusive terms of inquiry, frequently producing studies that are disparate in scope, sharing seemingly little common ground. Although the wide methodological range of materialist study can be dizzying, it is this book’s contention that that multiplicity is also the field’s greatest asset, keeping materialist inquiry enduringly vibrant—provided that varying methods are in close enough proximity to converse. Photography’s Materialities orchestrates one such conversation. Juxtaposing the insights of theorists like Lacan, Benjamin, and Latour beside close studies of crime, spirit, and composite photography, among others, this collection aims for a productive synergy, one capacious enough to span transatlantic spaces over the long nineteenth century.

Contributors: Kris Belden-Adams (University of Mississippi), Maura Coughlin (Bryant University), David LaRocca (independent scholar), Jacob W. Lewis (University of Rochester), Mary Marchand (Goucher College), Zachary Tavlin (Art Institute of Chicago), Christa Holm Vogelius (University of Copenhagen)

This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content).


Introduction:Photography’s Materialities
Geoff Bender and Rasmus R. Simonsen

Section I: The Materialities of Process and Product

Silver Salts: Realism and Materiality in a French photograph c.1900
Maura Coughlin

Early Photogravure & the Material Unconscious
Jacob W. Lewis

Section II: Material Remediations

Every Contact Leaves a Trace: Edith Wharton and the Forensic Imagination
Mary Marchand

Structuring Desire in Thomas Eakins’s Painting and Photography
Rasmus R. Simonsen

The Multilingualism of Jacob Riis’s Imagetext
Christa Holm Vogelius

Section III: Human-Posthuman Materialities

Composita, the “Mascot” of the Class of 1886: A (Fictional) Picture of “Real” Victorian-era College Sisterhood and Social-Caste Expectations
Kris Belden-Adams 

“A Single Multiple Image”: The Visual Rhetoric of An Ethiopian Chief
Geoff Bender

Spirit Photography & Rogue Objects
Zachary Tavlin

Object Lessons: What Cyanotypes Teach Us About Digital Media
David LaRocca

Rasmus R. Simonsen and Geoff Bender

Gallery with Color Plates


Format: Edited volume - ebook - PDF

272 pages

b/w: 54; tables: 1; color: 16

ISBN: 9789461663764

Publication: May 12, 2021

Languages: English

Geoff Bender is assistant professor in the English department at the State University of New York, College at Cortland.
Rasmus R. Simonsen is senior lecturer in the Communication Design & Media program at the Copenhagen School of Design and Technology.
This collection will be of interest to scholars and students working on the specific photographic technologies and processes covered in its wide- ranging chapters. It will also be valuable to those looking for more sophisticated avenues into thinking about photographic materiality. [...] Overall, this collection is abreast with current debates around materiality and photography, extending this conversation in thoughtful and meaningful ways.
Elisa DeCourcy, Technology and Culture, Volume 63, Number 4, October 2022, pp. 1223-1225,

"Photography’s Materialities considers photography’s material processes and engages with a wide range of theories of visuality's objecthood—as part of queer affective attachments, as actants in actor-network theory, or more. Through wide-ranging interdisciplinary contributions, the volume sheds intriguing light on some of the most familiar chapters of the Euro-American history of photography and demonstrates their contribution to shaping and forming hierarchies based on embodied notions of race, gender, and sexuality. Taken together, the book provides a provocative and ambitious survey of the capacious potential of exploring the matter of images and of investigating images as objects."
Thy Phu, University of Toronto Scarborough
Photography’s Materialities makes a significant intervention into studies of visual culture by bringing materiality and consequentiality to the forefront of scholarly concern. Bender and Simonsen should be applauded for assembling a wide-ranging body of research that productively explores what diverse materialist methodologies can do for our socio-techno-historical understanding of photography. With a concerted focus on the real, this collection is sure to open up novel and promising avenues of inquiry in visual studies.
Laurie E. Gries, University of Colorado at Boulder 

In focusing on the material constituents of photography, this book has its finger firmly on the pulse of contemporary scholarship, offering a political economy of the ’thingness’ of the photograph and with it a new understanding of the role of materiality in modern life.
Geoffrey Batchen, University of Oxford