Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history
In 1890, the famous Jena Glass Works of Carl Zeiss released the Anastigmat photographic lens. The innovative device advanced a chapter in optical technology that seemed to have progressed automatically in a predetermined manner since the medium’s origins. The new lens offered a consistent field of focus across the photographic plate and corrected for a number of additional aberrations at lower and higher f-stops. But why exactly had Zeiss developed its expensive mechanism and what drove photographers to buy it? This paper suggests that the consistent focus and varied depth of field that the Anastigmat provided were not in and of themselves the desired goals of the improvements, but that they were instead visible signals of a pictorial model that makers and consumers had been seeking since the public introduction of photography in 1839. The goal was a transparent realism that remained stubbornly external to the medium, an illusionistic standard that had largely been mediated by painting since the renaissance and was now apparently possible in photography as well.
Andrés Mario Zervigón is Professor of the History of Photography at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. His scholarship concentrates on the interaction between photographs, film, and fine art, generally focusing on moments in history when these media prove inadequate to their presumed task of representing the visual. Zervigón is author of John Heartfield and the Agitated Image: Photography, Persuasion, and the Rise of Avant-Garde Photomontage (University of Chicago Press, 2012) and Photography and Germany (Reaktion Books, 2017). With Tanya Sheehan he edited Photography and Its Origins (Routledge, 2014), with Sabine Kriebel Photography and Doubt (Routledge 2017), and with Donna Gustafson Subjective-Objective: A Century of Social Photography (Zimmerli Musuem/Hirmer Verlag, 2017). His current book project is Die Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung - The Worker's Illustrated Magazine, 1921-1938: A History of Germany's Other Avant-Garde, for which he received a CASVA Senior Fellowship (2013-14). At Rutgers Zervigón leads The Developing Room, an academic working group that promotes interdisciplinary dialogue on photography’s history, theory and practice.
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