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The Spaces of Photography

Mirjam Brusius

Revisiting the Spaces of Victorian Photography Archives

When encountering photo collections we are confronted with a bulk of material mainly deriving from the medium’s industrial and scientific applications, vernacular genres and colonial surveys in which aesthetic aspects only appear as a single piece in a puzzle. This project started out as a case study on the photographs of the Victorian scientist and pioneer of photography William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), now known as a major protagonist in early Fine Art photography. But Talbot had in fact multiple photographic practices in mind that concerned science, exploration, and antiquarian scholarship more than ‘high art’ in the strictest sense. Taking the question ‘Who turned Talbot into an artist?’ further, this project argues that not the actual photographs but their detachments from their original archival context, their circulation on the art market and their display across different types of museums and institutions determine the disciplinary framework for studying early photographic specimens, whether scientific, industrial, or colonial.

Photography and Networks of Knowledge in the Middle East

This project intends to help shift the centre of gravity in the history of photography – traditionally a Eurocentric field – eastwards by researching photographic centres such as Tehran and Istanbul in the 19th C. and their centrifugal impact on the Middle East and Europe. These spaces were characterised by continuous migrations in all directions leading to deep cultural, artistic and scientific exchange in which photographs played a crucial role. In a further step, the project will also look at philosophical, political and theological decrees on photography and hereby reveal the limits and provincial nature of ‘Western’ theoretical models in the history of photography.