British photographic history

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Exhibition: A New Power. Photography in Britain 1800-1850 / Oxford, from 1 February 2023

The announcement of photography’s invention in January 1839, first in Paris and then in London, introduced a ‘new power’ into British life. This new power—the capacity to automatically capture the images created in a camera—was soon being used for every conceivable purpose.

A New Power traces the development and dissemination of photographic images within Britain during the medium’s first fifty years. Comprising over 160 items, the exhibition features not only early daguerreotypes and salted paper prints but also paintings, sculptural busts, periodicals, prints and even elements of the first computing engine, along with various kinds of copies of photographs used to illustrate newspapers and books. By showing how photography intersected with all aspects of a nascent modernity—including industrialisation, science, art, the role of women, celebrity culture, journalism, publishing, race, class, colonialism, and consumer capitalism—the exhibition reveals photography’s crucial role in making Britain the society it is today.

The exhibition’s curator, Geoffrey Batchen, is Professor of History of Art at the University of Oxford. A scholarly symposium responding to the exhibition will be held at the Bodleian Library on March 18.

A New Power. Photography in Britain 1800-1850
S T Lee Gallery, Weston Library, Oxford                                       
1 February 2023 – 7 May 2023
Free admission

A peak at the exhibition installation underway, courtesy of Geoff Batchen. 

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