Arabella Goddard, pianist, by T. R. Williams, c.1857. Stereo daguerreotype. Brian May Collection.

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Keynote Sessions: Kim Timby

Kim Timby, photography historian, curator and teacher at the École du Louvre, whose research explores the cultural history of photographic technologies, will deliver a presentation titled: The construction of the integral-image utopia.

 

In the mid-twentieth-century, it was widely believed that innovations in photographing movement, color, and depth would one day afford complete mastery of the simulation of visual perception. This collective representation of purpose and of progress in photography was eloquently expressed as the “myth of total cinema” by André Bazin (1946), who argued that the longing for “integral realism” had always marked mechanical reproduction, inspiring inventors since the nineteenth century.

The present article historicizes this integral-image utopia, mapping the expression of its intellectual mechanisms in the first accounts of photography then in photography’s emerging historiography. This research reveals the absence of a shared project around “complete” perceptual realism for most of the nineteenth century. The idea of prgress toward a total image reproducing vision emerged and came to prevail in the popular imagination at a very particular moment—in 1896, following the invention of cinema—, transforming how people thought about the future of photography and told the story of its past.

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