Notes On 'photographic Portraiture And The Forgetting Of Colour' Notes
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Smith, Lindsay (2000) 'Photographic Portraiture and the Forgetting of Colour.' Journal of European Studies, 30 (117): 91-110. Summary: Following early 19th century experimentations with colour, there was a 'complex and strategic' naturalisation of black and white for a relatively brief but significant period. Colour seen as in excess and met with resistance in the 1930s (colour, absent from the 1830s can't be reclaimed simply in the 1930s), especially as it restored and drew attention to the repressed shock inherent in the doubling capacity of the photographic portrait (eg not only does the photo entail a chemical link to the referent but it unites a mirror image and shadow image. Also, photography intersects with psychoanalysis by bringing about changes in attitudes to self depiction the mirror stage's misrecognition). Can relate this discussion of excess and colour to Irigaray. Note: the first photographically illustrated book was produced by a female botanist (1843), and Smith discusses a 1930s female artist who stated, 'a world entirely without colour...What a strange world! And yet if you had never known a different one, how peculiar the normal coloured world would appear!' Hence her reinstatement of colour. Resembles Ruskin's meditation on a world from which colour's been drained, as well as Julia Margaret Cameron (1864): 'Who has the right to say' she asks 'what is the legitimate focus'. Smith also discusses doubling in more detail, the most salient point being that the naturalisation of photographic representation facilitates a repression of the psychological intensity that constitutes its origins - those origins being glimpsed in the photo's link to doubles, mediums of duplication, and theories of shadows and mirrors. Barthes: 'today it is as if we repressed the profound madness of photography, it reminds us of its mythic heritage only by that faint uneasiness which seizes me when I look at 'myself''. Note: whereas the daguerreotype would harness a shadow, preserving the self as seen in mirror, Talbot's negative/positive process corrected the 'perverse' image, presenting the subject the right way round. Photography thus dramatised the mirror's fiction for what it was, and enabled a fantasy of wholeness as distinct from the fantasy given by mirror. Full Notes: Viewing a portrait of an other is oddly specular. By extension, when one confronts a photographic image of the self, the medium redefines it as other. Start of 20th century: addition of colour to the already complex duality of photographic portrait. Prompts us to question, as played out at photography's inception, those possibilities and ramifications raised by addition of colour to photographic likeness. Colour offset what had become a naturalised relationship of self to 'black and white' and it can be read as drawing attention to the implicit (and in some senses) obvious doubling all photos imply; a duality that might be regarded in those uncanny manifestations that refuse a conception of 'straight' depictions of self. Polychromatic photography reinstates the spectre of doubling whose legacy inhabits folklore, anthropology and magic. A concept of the double is especially central to photographic portraiture. Not only does the photo entail a chemical link to the referent but it unites a mirror image and shadow image: both well-established doubles. These motifs persist in 19th century lit and visual arts. In the 1930s photographic portraiture is still experimental because, from the first concepts of duality and specularity, it continues to be in dialogue with them. Along with developments in psychoanalysis, such concepts were being radically questioned (the 'mirror stage', for instance, involves identification and misrecognition). As indicated by the self-conscious inclusion of reflective, or doubling, devices within
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