Disillusioned: Victorian Photography and the Discerning Subject by Jordan BearDisillusioned: Victorian Photography and the Discerning Subject by Jordan Bear

Disillusioned: Victorian Photography and the Discerning Subject

byJordan Bear

Paperback | September 19, 2016

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How do photographs compel belief and endow knowledge? To understand the impact of photography in a given era, we must study the adjacent forms of visual persuasion with which photographs compete and collaborate. In photography’s early days, magic shows, scientific demonstrations, and philosophical games repeatedly put the visual credulity of the modern public to the test in ways that shaped, and were shaped by, the reality claims of photography. These venues invited viewers to judge the reliability of their own visual experiences. Photography resided at the center of a constellation of places and practices in which the task of visual discernment—of telling the real from the constructed—became an increasingly crucial element of one’s location in cultural, political, and social relations. In Disillusioned: Victorian Photography and the Discerning Subject, Jordan Bear tells the story of how photographic trickery in the 1850s and 1860s participated in the fashioning of the modern subject. By locating specific mechanisms of photographic deception employed by the leading mid-century photographers within this capacious culture of discernment, Disillusioned integrates some of the most striking—and puzzling—images of the Victorian period into a new and expansive interpretive framework.

Jordan Bear is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Toronto. Jordan Bear is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Toronto.
Title:Disillusioned: Victorian Photography and the Discerning SubjectFormat:PaperbackDimensions:216 pages, 10 × 7 × 0.73 inPublished:September 19, 2016Publisher:Penn State University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0271065028

ISBN - 13:9780271065021

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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations


Introduction. The History of Photography and the Problem of Knowledge

One. See for Yourself: Visual Discernment and Photography’s Appearance

Two. Shadowy Organization: Combination Photography, Illusion, and Conspiracy

Three. Same Time Tomorrow: Serial Photographs and the Structure of Industrial Vision

Four. Hand in Hand: Gender and Collaboration in Victorian Photography

Five. Signature Style: Francis Frith and the Rise of Corporate Photographic Authorship

Six. Indistinct Relics: Discerning the Origins of Photography

Seven. The Limits of Looking: The Tiny, Distant, and Rapid Subjects of Photography

Conclusion. “Normal” Photography: The Legacy of a History




Editorial Reviews

“Historically rich, theoretically sophisticated, critically informed, and modest even as it shifts the grounds of critical consensus about a number of key questions about photography. It is quite simply a tour de force.”

—Daniel A. Novak, Victorian Studies