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Q.How in the nineteenth-century was photography utilised in order to create notions of social and cultural identity? Examine a more contemporary example of portraiture that has a resonance with these earlier practices.
It is scarcely possible to imagine how one might identify with themselves or their society without the influence of photography. Since its introduction in the early nineteenth-century, this objective art of visualising has played an important role in the way we understand the natural order, and our capacity for identity within our respective societies and cultures. Both the scientific and social contexts in which photography was employed had profound effects on the social zeitgeist of the nineteenth century, and helped shape notions of social and cultural identity. If our lives are dominated by a pursuit for truth and happiness, then perhaps few fields reveal as much about the dynamics of this search than the sciences. However mysterious, through experimentation and evidence, scientific research slowly reveals our inner self, our blind spot, and our identity. The introduction of photography in the nineteenth-century had obvious benefits and enormous implications in this area, helping to create notions of social and cultural identity through the scientific method. William Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of the negative/positive photographic process, foresaw the major benefits a truly objective method of visualising would bring. He states, ʻit would allow the capture of chance natural events, which might then be followed up with experimentsʼ1. The new found process of evidential imaging sparked a change in the zeitgeist, affording scientists the ability to create accurate and objective representations of the world around them. This would eventually end a long running frustration towards the insufficient visual description of the time, namely words and illustration. Leonardo da Vinci expresses this perfectly: ʻHow in words can you describe this heart without filling a whole book?ʼ 2. Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne de Boulogne, with a pioneering interest in neurology, broke new ground in the scientific use of photography, using the craft as an

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Hamilton & Hargreaves. The Beautiful and the Damned. London: Lund Humphries, 2001, p.58.

Cazort. Photographyʼs Illustrative Ancestors: The Printed Image. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997, p.14.

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integral part of the scientific method. In Duchenneʼs Le Mécanisme de la physionomie humaine, ou analyse électro-physiologique de lʼexpression des passions applicable à la pratique des arts plastiques (The mechanism of human physiognomy, or electrophysiological analysis of the expression of passions, applicable to the practice of the plastic arts.), published in 1862, the effects of electrical stimulation to the body and the mechanics of facial expression is documented, marking the first use of photography as an ʻintegral element of a proposed theoryʼ3. The research set out to capture the normal workings of the face and shares similarities with the philosophies of Charles Bell, a Scottish anatomist and medical philosopher who argued that ʻexpression is to emotion what language is to thoughtʼ 4. Duchenneʼs extensive notes give a careful account of the photographic process used throughout his experiments and more interestingly highlight the parity that exists between art and scientific photography.
From 1852, convinced of the impossibility of popularising or even of publishing this research without the aid of photography, I approached some talented and artistic photographers. These first trials were not, and could not be, successful. In photography, as in painting or sculpture, you can only transmit well what you perceive well. Art does not rely only on technical skills. For my research, it was necessary to know how to put each expressive line into relief by a skillful play of light. This skill was beyond the most dextrous artist; he did not understand the physiological facts I was trying to demonstrate. Thus I needed to initiate myself into the art of photography.5

Duchenneʼs ground breaking use of photography served multiple purposes. The portrait like appearance of the photographs act as a snapshot of society. Duchenne was able to accurately record for the first time the expressions and mechanisms of the human face, showing us that the expression of emotion is not a ʻsecondary feature of characterʼ, but instead a reflection of our personalities. They depict a scientific society in its infancy, eager to acquire knowledge about the natural workings of the self and in turn ones identity. This is made clear to us through Duchenneʼs choice of title for the publication. By making use of the photographic process, Duchenne was able to permanently fix the results of his exploits, raising his research to a plane of objectivity once impossible, providing ʻrealʼ

3 4 5

Hamilton & Hargreaves. The Beautiful and the Damned. London: Lund Humphries, 2001, p.56. Hamilton & Hargreaves. The Beautiful and the Damned. London: Lund Humphries, 2001, p.65.

Duchenne de Boulogne, The Mechanism of Human Facial Expression. (R. Andrew Cuthbertson trs. and ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990, p39.

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evidence for his work. This is characteristic of the ʻchance momentsʼ Talbot conceives of capturing and indeed led to further research.

fig. I G.-B. Duchenne de Boulogne Taken from Mécanisme de la physionomie humaine, 1862

Duchenneʼs research proved to be of considerable importance, not only in the fields of medicine, but also in the understanding of human evolution. The British naturalist Charles Darwin was particularly fond of Duchenneʼs work, as it provided further evidence for his theory of evolution showing that human beings have descended from a common ancestor. The study of expression was a large part of Darwinʼs work and ʻattests to the importance of attempting to understand the ʻlanguage of the faceʼ in the nineteenth-centuryʼ 6.
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Hamilton & Hargreaves. The Beautiful and the Damned. London: Lund Humphries, 2001, p.74.

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Photography played an significant role in this work, and was an important aspect of The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals. Darwin collaborated with Oscar Gustav Rejlander, a leading photographer in the nineteenth-century in order to produce adequate visual evidence for this work. This partnership with Rejlander eased a ʻlong struggleʼ 7 Darwin had in finding suitable photographs for inclusion in Expression which ʻrevolutionisedʼ the study of human behaviour. All this gave Darwin the chance to exile scientific racism similar to the typological sciences that sprung up in the nineteenth-century like phrenology, criminology, psychiatry and eugenics. Darwin writes, ʻI have endeavored to show in considerable detail that all the chief expressions exhibited by man are the same throughout the world,ʼ 8 something which arguably, would not have been possible without the aid of photography. The social and cultural impact photography had in this instance was meaningful, one reviewer of the book declares, ʻthe partnership of Darwin and Rejlander had ʻscattered to the windsʼ all previous attempts at portraying the passionsʼʼ.9

7

Prodger & Phillip. Photography and the expressions of the emotions. Appendix III. In Darwin. The expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. London: Fontana Press, 1999, p.399.
8

Darwin. The Expressions of Emotions in Man and Animals. 200th Anniversary ed. London: Fontana Press, 1999, p.335-6.
9

Prodger & Phillip. Photography and the expressions of the emotions. Appendix III. In Charles Darwin, The expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. London: Fontana Press, 1999, p.399.

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fig. II Oscar Gustav Rejlander Self portrait, 1872

The impacts of scientific photography on nineteenth-century society and the meaning of identity were relevant and far reaching. Photography was in its infancy, but was already being used to elicit profound statements about what it means to be human. The value we ascribe to the societies we inhabit, the emotional, financial and physical backbone of our lives, connect us. The nineteenth-century saw scientific progress run parallel with that of western society and its culture. An emerging middle-class and new social groups, largely the result of a reshuffling of the social hierarchy and economic development, were eager to make the most of these civil developments and to be represented through photography.

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During the early nineteenth-century, the middle-class ʻmolded its distinctive identity around domestic values and family practicesʼ.10 It is also posited that a ʻrange of shared experiences rather than a distinct or coherent political agendaʼ 11 gave distinction to this emerging class. These liberating ideals help us understand why this newly formed group took such an interest in portraiture photography, using it as a means of ʻgrasping and fixing social positionʼ12 and memorialising loved ones.
I long to have such a memorial of every being dear to me in the world. It is not merely the likeness which is precious in such cases-but the association and the sense of nearness involved in the thing… the fact of the very shadow of the person lying there fixed forever! It is the very sanctification of portraits I think - and it is not at all monstrous in me to say, what my brothers cry out against so vehemently, that I would rather have such a memorial of one I dearly loved, than the noblest artistʼs work ever produced.13

Towards the middle of the nineteenth-century, a fascination for celebrity saw a ʻboom in self-commissioned portraitureʼ.14 The carte de visite, patented by André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri, a type of small and easily distributable photograph, served the purpose of catering to the newly formed areas of society who took pleasure in collecting images of prominent people of the time. These small calling-card like images pleased the society at large and helped the idea of celebrity prosper. In the 1860s it became possible for not only the rich and affluent to have their portrait taken and made into a carte. As the process became available to an ever widening group of the society, social networks became more robust and, often taken for granted, the family album came into existence, often with areas precut for cartes. These were often used as family albums, and were ʻdesigned for posterity and functioned as a cherished heirloom to be handed down through the generations.ʼ15

10

Ryan. Cradle of the Middle Class: The Family in Oneida County, New York, 1790-1865. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981, p.15.
11

Blumin. The Emergence of the Middle Class: Social Experience in the American City, 1760-1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, p.9.
12 13 14

Hamilton & Hargreaves. The Beautiful and the Damned. London: Lund Humphries, 2001, p.111. Barrett. Letter to Mary Russell Mitford. 1843. In Sontag. On Photography. London: England, 2008, p.183. Hamilton & Hargreaves. The Beautiful and the Damned. London: Lund Humphries, 2001, p.43. Hamilton & Hargreaves. The Beautiful and the Damned. London: Lund Humphries, 2001, p.46.

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Having access to photography, and in turn representation and memorialisation, the nineteenth-century saw an increasing amount of western society more emotionally engaged with the family and loved ones. People started to become less connected through financial and materialistic matters, and empathised with each other in a more emotional, romantic manner.

fig. III André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri Uncut Sheet of Carte de Visite Photographs by Disdéri, 1854 © Maryland Photographic Society

It is perhaps the unsheathing of expression, the family and celebrity that defines a great deal of the utility of photography in the nineteenth-century. Annie Leibovitz is identifiable with both the scientific and social pursuits and goals aforementioned, eliciting notions of and tackling expression, the family and celebrity culture. The appropriately titled ʻA Photographerʼs Lifeʼ sums up this assertion well, filled with celebrity portraiture and interlaced with more personal work, Leibovitz writes, ʻI donʼt have two lives. This is one life, and the personal pictures and the assignment work are all part of it.ʼ 16 Leibovitz was born
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Leibovitz. A Photographerʼs Life 1990-2005. London: Jonathan Cape, 2006, p19.

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in the 1950s and much like the emerging middle-class of the early nineteenth-century, grew up during a time of great social change. This, perhaps, is the reason for the importance she places on the family; when asked what her advice to a young photographer would be she states, ʻ… the best thing a young photographer can do is to stay close to home.ʼ17 Whilst Leibovitz is undoubtedly best known for her work capturing celebrities, having photographed The Rolling Stones, John Lennon, Demi Moore, and other important figures, her more personal work, photographing family and friends, resonates with nineteenthcentury ideals regarding the family and expression. At the heart of these personal documents are her daughters, her mother, her father and her late partner Susan Sontag.

fig. IV Annie Leibovitz Susan Sontag, 2003

Sontag was a very important part of Leibovitzʼs life, and whilst not entirely akin to the aspired to ʻnuclear familyʼ 18, their relationship certainly was a ʻcompanionate

17 18

Leibovitz. At Work. London: Jonathan Cape, 2008, p.212. Hamilton & Hargreaves. The Beautiful and the Damned. London: Lund Humphries, 2001, p.11.

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relationshipʼ19, something underpinning concepts of family life in the nineteenth-century. The ways in which Leibovitz used photography to portray Sontag, run parallel with its utility during the 1800s. Leibovitz not only used photography in a very personal manner, capturing her lover through snapshots in an almost colloquial way, in an editorial style taking her portrait for publication, but she also expresses a desire to memorialise her in the documentary style she adopted whilst photographing Sontag after her death. This makes for a series of personal and emotional images, and suggests that some of the ideologies that evolved in the nineteenth-century are still with us today. The invention of the photograph and its utility in the nineteenth-century not only afforded us the opportunity to gauge and record the natural world in the sciences, but also assisted society in the slow march towards knowing who we are, what we are and how we relate to each other. By the end of the nineteenth-century, photography had established itself as the principal visualisation medium of its age. Photography was already becoming a staple in people lives and shaped a society around the culture of celebrity, family, and the scientific process and had become an accepted part of the society in various countries around the world. It is only when we step back and look at the foregone practices of photography during this time that can we fully understand their impact. Photography empowered scientists with an objective and accurate means of fixing their experiments, bettering the scientific rational and in turn the society at large. Photography was used by the society to memorialise and become closer with their families, creating a culture of ʻloveʼ. Photography also created a strong celebrity culture providing entertainment and aspiration. All of these developments can be felt today. Total word count: 1808 words.

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Bibliography
Barrett, Elizabeth. Letter to Mary Russell Mitford. 1843. In Sontag. On Photography. London: England, 2008. Blumin, Stuart. The Emergence of the Middle Class: Social Experience in the American City, 1760-1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. Cazort, Mimi. Photographyʼs Illustrative Ancestors: The Printed Image. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997. Darwin, Charles. The Expressions of Emotions in Man and Animals. 200th Anniversary ed. London: Fontana Press, 1999. Duchenne de Boulogne. The Mechanism of Human Facial Expression. (R. Andrew Cuthbertson ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Hamilton, Peter & Hargreaves, Roger. The Beautiful and the Damned. London: Lund Humphries, 2001. Leibovitz, Annie. A Photographerʼs Life 1990-2005. London: Jonathan Cape, 2006. Leibovitz, Annie. At Work. London: Jonathan Cape, 2008. Prodger & Phillip. Photography and the expressions of the emotions. Appendix III. In Darwin. The expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. London: Fontana Press, 1999. Ryan, Mary P. Cradle of the Middle Class: The Family in Oneida County, New York, 1790-1865. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981. Sontag, Susan. On Photography. London: Penguin Group, 2008.

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