Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography

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In an 1828 letter to his partner, Nicéphore Niépce, Louis Daguerre wrote, "I am burning with desire to see your experiments from nature." In this book, Geoffrey Batchen analyzes the desire to photograph as it emerged within the philosophical and scientific milieus that preceded the actual invention of photography. Recent accounts of photography's identity tend to divide between the postmodern view that all identity is determined by context and a formalist effort to define the fundamental characteristics of photography as a medium. Batchen critiques both approaches by way of a detailed discussion of photography's conception in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He examines the output of the various nominees for "first photographer," then incorporates this information into a mode of historical criticism informed by the work of Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. The result is a way of thinking about photography that persuasively accords with the medium's undeniable conceptual, political, and historical complexity.

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If, by 1725, all the chemical and optical necessities for the practice of photography already existed, why wasn't the art form invented until 1839? Geoffrey Batchen, an associate professor of art history and author of Burning with Desire, has an interesting answer: people simply weren't ready for it. Along with a blossoming in literature, philosophy, music, and science, the 18th century was also host to a whole new way of thinking about nature and landscape. The camera obscura, a portable box equipped with a lens or a mirror, was a popular tool that people used to first capture views and then trace them. The ability to reproduce a scene--however imperfectly--whet people's appetites for more exact methods, leading first to what Batchen calls the "proto-photographers," and then sometime later to the invention of Louis Daguerre's daguerrotype and Henry Fox Talbot's photography in the same year.

Batchen's history lesson is filled with eccentric characters and fascinating insights into passions and obsessions of the Age of Enlightenment. The book becomes controversial, however, in Batchen's assertion that the early photographers, rather than trying to capture reality, were, in fact, attempting to decontruct it--long before Jacques Derrida created the theory of deconstruction. Whether or not you end up agreeing with Batchen, Burning with Desire is a unique look at photography's roots, one sure to engender heated discussion among enthusiasts of the art form.

About the Author:

Geoffrey Batchen is Professor of the History of Photography and Contemporary Art at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the author of Burning with Desire: The Conceptions of Photography (1999) and Each Wild Idea: Writing, Photography, History (2002), both published by the MIT Press.

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Book Description MIT Press Ltd, United States, 1999. Paperback. Condition: New. Revised ed.. Language: English. Brand new Book. In an 1828 letter to his partner, Nicephore Niepce, Louis Daguerre wrote, "I am burning with desire to see your experiments from nature." In this book, Geoffrey Batchen analyzes the desire to photograph as it emerged within the philosophical and scientific milieus that preceded the actual invention of photography. Recent accounts of photography's identity tend to divide between the postmodern view that all identity is determined by context and a formalist effort to define the fundamental characteristics of photography as a medium. Batchen critiques both approaches by way of a detailed discussion of photography's conception in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He examines the output of the various nominees for "first photographer," then incorporates this information into a mode of historical criticism informed by the work of Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. The result is a way of thinking about photography that persuasively accords with the medium's undeniable conceptual, political, and historical complexity. Seller Inventory # AAC9780262522595

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