The Camera as Historian
Amateur Photographers and Historical Imagination, 1885-1918
By (author) Elizabeth Edwards
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Camera as Historian by Elizabeth Edwards
In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth, hundreds of amateur photographers took part in the photographic survey movement in England. They sought to record the material remains of the English past so that it might be preserved for future generations. In The Camera as Historian, the groundbreaking historical and visual anthropologist Elizabeth Edwards works with an archive of nearly 55,000 photographs taken by 1,000 photographers, mostly unknown until now. She approaches the survey movement and its social and material practices ethnographically. Considering how the amateur photographers understood the value of their project, Edwards links the surveys to the rise of popular photography, concepts of leisure, and understandings of the local and the national. Her examination of how the photographers negotiated between scientific objectivity and aesthetic responses to the past leads her to argue that the survey movement was as concerned with the conditions of its own modernity and the creation of an archive for an anticipated future as it was nostalgic about the imagined past. Including more than 120 duotone images, The Camera as Historian offers new perspectives on the forces that shaped Victorian and Edwardian Britain, as well as contemporary debates about cultural identity, nationality, empire, material practices, and art.
"In this magnificent study, Elizabeth Edwards approaches the photographic survey movement in England above all as a practice: a relation between photographers, photographic technologies, photographs, and the material traces of the past in landscapes. This practice, as Edwards shows in rich detail, was extensive, amateur, public, local, and reflexive. With its empirical depth and conceptual reach, this book enhances immensely our understanding of the mediation of both history and geography by photography." Gillian Rose, author of Doing Family Photography: The Domestic, The Public and The Politics of Sentiment "The Camera as Historian offers groundbreaking insights into the entangled relations of photography and history, the recording impulse in modern British history, the complex links between visual practices and the historical imagination, and the intellectual and cultural traditions that frame representations of the past. It is significant as the first in-depth look at the fascinating and important work of the British survey movement: its participants, driving impulses, economies, audiences, values, and successes and failures. The book is made all the more important by Elizabeth Edwards' insistence on attention to the ways that photographs were produced and translated, and her demonstration of a mode of historical interpretation that not only links critical theory and archival practice, but illustrates their inseparability." Jennifer Tucker, author of Nature Exposed: Photography as Eyewitness in Victorian Science "... known in England as the photographic survey movement, attempted to record historically important features of the English landscape with the intent of archiving the country's cultural and social history. This is the only comprehensive monograph on the survey movement, for which Edwards has identified 73 surveys, or regional bodies of work that were focused on particular towns, counties, and cities...Serious researchers on this topic will appreciate the thorough work offered here, which is well documented in notes and appendixes." Library Journal, April 1st 2012 "Elizabeth Edwards has detailed this mutual process in a very detailed way that leaves no side unidentified (the book has for instance extremely interesting analyses of the relationship between the local, the national, and the imperial, just as it opens new grounds to the sociological analysis of the groups that commissioned, encouraged, made, exhibited, or ignored these pictures). At the same time, the work is incredibly modest, and there is in the tone of the book such a respect for its material that it communicates to the modern reader a strong sense of the love of the past that was much more than the narrow nostalgia or the simple fear of the vanishing of a lost (and largely mythical, imagined) order. If good history is a dialogue between past, present and future, then The Camera as History is best history." Jan Baetens, Leonardo.indo, October 2012ISBN: 9780822351047
Classification: Photographic equipment & techniques , British & Irish history , Cultural studies
Format: Paperback (251mm x 203mm x 23mm)
Imprint: Duke University Press
Publisher: Duke University Press
Publish Date: 13-Apr-2012
Country of Publication: United States
Comment on Camera as Historian by Elizabeth Edwards
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Elizabeth Edwards is Professor of Photographic History and Director of the Photographic History Research Centre at De Montfort University in Leicester. From 1988 until 2005, she was Head of Photograph and Manuscript Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford, where she was also a Lecturer in Visual Anthropology. Edwards is the author of "Raw Histories: Photographs, Anthropology, and Museums"; editor of "Anthropology and Photography, 1860-1920"; and a co-editor of "Photography, Anthropology and History"; "Visual Sense: The Cultural Reader"; and "Sensible Objects: Colonialism, Material Culture and the Senses."
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