Photo Recognition

Wed, 2 Aug 1995 09:22:16 -0400

Perhaps interest in this thread has ended. However, an excellent
exhibition has opened at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum
of American Art, "Secrets of the Dark Chamber: The Art of the American
Daguerreotype", which delves into the drastic change that overcame
U.S. culture upon the invention of the firt photographs. To quote
from a recent article:

"'You have to wipe your mind clean in order to fully realize the
impact that daguerreotypes . . . had on people,' says Merry Foresta,
curator (of the exhibit) . . . 'What we are showing in the exhibition
is no less than an original moment in time. Like ripples that form
when a stone first drops into a pond, these first photographs
unimaginably presaged the media glut we have today.'" The article and
the exhibition then go on to describe how the US of the 1840's and
'50's went daguerreotype "crazy" in its depiction of people, still
lifes, and scenery. ("Langrall, P., "World's first photographs
delivered dramatic impact", Smithsonian Inst. Research reports, #81,
Summer '95, pg. 4.) A catalog of the exhibition is available.

Perhaps this helps to give us some sense of the drama of the
construction that we assume so easily today. As recent postings have
noted, we have "grown up" in a particular "art historical" world that
we have learned to assume quite easily. People in other cultures
haven't; they have had their own worlds (though I should say, in my
own experience, the people I work with are eager to reap the benefits
of photography). Leedom Lefferts