British photographic history

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The latest issue of this journal (Volume 7, Issue 2 July 2009), carries a paper by Julia F. Munro, titled 'The optical stranger': Photographic anxieties in British periodical literature of the 1840s and early 1850s, pages 167-183.

The abstract reads: An examination of periodical literature from the period of the invention of photography in 1839 and onwards reveals that the reception of the medium on the part of the Victorians was characterized by an ambivalent response of enthusiasm as well as anxiety, an ambivalence that grew increasingly insistent despite familiarity with the medium as it became popular in the early 1850s. This article examines in depth the representations of photography in a selection of fictional and periodical texts from the 1840s and early 1850s, in order to trace the development of the anxieties about photography and to elucidate how such anxieties evolved in light of the medium's growing ubiquity. In serving as a space in which Victorians expressed their ambivalence, the texts provide valuable insight into the Victorians' negotiation of photography and the visual culture within which the medium operated. The various photographic anxieties the author considers include the troubling association of photography with the magical, the unease felt towards the photograph as memorial, and the concerns regarding the medium's agency and the perfect photographic copy it produces. The latter two qualities of the medium prove to be central concerns that underlie the other expressions of anxiety voiced in regard to photography.

More on the journal can be found here:

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